For those only interested in getting an overview of the thesis without actually reading it, I've posted the abstract:
This dissertation challenges the prevailing rentier state interpretation of political life in the countries of the Arab Gulf, a theoretical framework little changed for more than a quarter century. It does so by evaluating for the first time the fundamental claim of rentier theory to understand the individual-level drivers of political views and behavior among ordinary citizens of rent-based regimes, in particular its assumption that individuals are content to forfeit a role in political decision-making in exchange for a tax-free, natural resource-funded welfare state. By this conception, citizens’ degree of economic contentment is the key variable influencing the extent of their political interest and demands for participation; normative support for their governments; and, ultimately, the overall stability of their regimes, with other, non-material factors playing no important systematic role at the individual level.For the full (366-page) version, click on the image below.
Yet this dissertation identifies and elaborates one important conditionality to the basic rentier premise that economically-satisfied Gulf Arabs make politically-satisfied Gulf Arabs: the existence of societal division along confessional (Sunni-Shi‘i) lines, a condition present in each of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain. Utilizing the results of over a dozen elite interviews and an original 500-household survey of political attitudes in Bahrain, along with parallel survey data from Iraq, I demonstrate that in societies in which confessional membership is politically salient, this shared identity offers a viable basis for mass political coordination in a type of state thought by its very nature to lack one. Under this condition, I show, the political opinions and actions of ordinary Gulf Arabs are not determined primarily by material considerations but by an individual’s confessionally-defined position as a member of the political in- or out-group. Moreover, I demonstrate, concerns about the national loyalty of the confessionally-defined political out-group—that is to say, about the perceived threat of Iranian-inspired Shi‘a emboldening—means that the latter community is disproportionately excluded from the rentier benefits of citizenship. In sum, in Bahrain and other Gulf societies divided along Sunni-Shi‘i lines, neither is the rentier state willing to offer its presumed material wealth-for-political silence bargain to all citizens, nor are all citizens willing to accept it.
If 366 pages is too rich for your blood, however, you can choose from individual chapters, which are described in the introductory first chapter thus:
Chapter 2 offers a more expansive account of the conceptual framework introduced already, a theory of ethnic-based political mobilization in the Arab Gulf rentier states.Finally, I've also uploaded the dissertation overview that I presented at the defense:
Chapter 3 gives additional substance to this theoretical account by studying the case of Sunni-Shi‘i conflict in Bahrain. Drawing insights from interviews conducted with some dozen Bahraini political and religious leaders—four of whom now face lengthy prison terms for their alleged roles in the February 14 uprising—this section describes how, in Bahrain, the individual-oriented politics of economic competition assumed to operate in allocative societies is superseded by an ethnic-based contest to determine the very character of the nation itself: its history and cultural identity; the bases of citizenship; and the conditions for inclusion in public service.
Chapter 4 supplies a practical and methodological preface to the analysis of my Bahrain mass survey, detailing the actual survey procedure, likely theoretical and methodological objections, and a first reliable look at Bahrain’s ethnic demographics since its 1941 census.
Chapter 5 employs the previously-unavailable data from my Bahrain mass survey to explore the determinants of political opinion and action among ordinary Bahraini citizens. It seeks to discover whether Bahrainis’ normative attitudes toward their government and the political actions they take for or against it are influenced foremost by material satisfaction, as per the rentier state hypothesis, or by ethnic affiliation and orientations, as argued herein.
Chapter 6 mirrors the Bahrain mass survey analysis with a parallel study of political opinion and behavior in Iraq. Using comparable survey data, this investigation aims to learn how far the individual-level relationships uncovered in the previous section are limited only to the Bahrain context or, on the contrary, obtain more widely.
Chapter 7 reviews the preceding, makes note of its limitations, and suggests how it might be extended as part of a larger revised Arab Gulf research agenda.
Get all this now before I somehow lose the ability to publish it thanks to the dysfunctional copyright regime of the United States.