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The symbiosis of sectarianism, authoritarianism, and rentierism in the Saudi state

Freer, Courtney (2019) The symbiosis of sectarianism, authoritarianism, and rentierism in the Saudi state. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 19 (1). pp. 88-108. ISSN 1754-9469

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Identification Number: 10.1111/sena.12287


Saudi Arabia provides a compelling example of how sectarianism sustains the dynamics of authoritarianism, especially when bolstered by a rentier political economy. In this paper, I investigate three claims about the link between Saudi authoritarianism and sectarianism, as follows: (1) Governing with a sectarian ideology impedes political reform, since it disrupts cross-sectarian reform coalitions by attacking the sectarian outgroup. (2) The presence of multiple sects, as well as hydrocarbon wealth, allows regimes like that of al-Saʿud to use divide-and-rule tactics to maintain control; it also enables the funding of media and education outlets with the purpose of perpetuating authoritarianism, especially when the authoritarian dynamics are underpinned by a rentier political economy. (3) Despite the authoritarian and rentier dynamics in play, the Saudi government has at times sought at least a degree of inclusion of the Shia minority, depending on the political economy and the relative influence of Shia and Sunni Islamists. Using the existing literature on the Saudi state and historical examples, I aim to clarify the link between sectarianism and authoritarianism in a state in which the Sunni/Shia division, bolstered by a rentier political economy, has emerged as a powerful means of maintaining the political status quo.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Divisions: Middle East Centre
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2019 14:18
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:38

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