The emergence of the ‘rentocrat’

Rogers, Samuel (2023). The emergence of the ‘rentocrat’. New Political Economy (in press).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13563467.2023.2172148

Abstract

Scholarship on rents and rentierism abounds. Commonly absent is analysis of the actors who perform rentierism: how they do it, when they do it, what outcomes result. To address this lacuna, I advance a three-tier typology of actors I term ‘rentocrats’. I then investigate the role of rentocrats in performing what has been labelled ‘infrastructure rentierism’ across infrastructure projects’ lifecycles: a scenario where surplus capital and labour are utilised by rentiers (rentocrats). This article contributes to an expanding literature on ‘assetisation’, by showing how rentocrats accrue rent across such lifecycles typically helped by local legal frameworks and a cross-coalition of politico-economic stakeholders, which together transform the good into an asset. As such, this article helps overcomes a recognised blind spot in the assetisation scholarship: its empiricism. Through Case Study Analysis, I use the rentocrat conceptualisation and theorisation to highlight the variegated practice of infrastructure rentierism across the lifecycles of largescale (>USD100mn) Chinese-sourced capital-financed infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Hungary. I intend the ‘rentocrat’ concept to be applied to and critiqued against other forms of rentierism not limited to Chinese-sourced capital, European sites, or its infrastructure variant.

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