Oil rent, the Rentier State/Resource Curse Narrative and the GCC Countries

Rutledge, Emilie J. (2017). Oil rent, the Rentier State/Resource Curse Narrative and the GCC Countries. OPEC Energy Review, 41(2) pp. 132–152.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/opec.12098


Despite the fact that ‘rent’ underpins both Rentier State (RS) and Resource Curse (RC) theses, external factors that help shape perceptions of it and determine its value, are rarely factored in. The purpose of this article is to suggest reasons for this shortcoming and, with particular reference to the ‘archetypal candidate’ Gulf Cooperation Council countries, question the utility per se of the RS/RC paradigm (RS outcomes can only manifest within RC contexts). To explain the default and longstanding utilisation of the construct across the social sciences—in spite of the frequent need to detour around contrary data—this paper points firstly to the way in which rent is now popularly perceived (from logically grounded, to excessively unwarranted) and secondly, to the fact that ‘oil’ lies at the paradigm’s heart. It is a commodity that various Western polities once had unfettered control over; no other depletable natural resource in the past century has held such global economic significance (external actors clearly have a vested interest). Lastly, to underscore the need for a reappraisal of the RS/RC analytical framework, some data is presented that demonstrates the GCC countries have not, comparatively-speaking, suffered the deleterious consequences that the paradigm stipulates.

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