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The rentier mentality, 30 years on: evidence from survey data

Hertog, Steffen ORCID: 0000-0002-6758-9564 (2020) The rentier mentality, 30 years on: evidence from survey data. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 47 (1). 6 - 23. ISSN 1353-0194

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13530194.2020.1714870


The “rentier mentality” has been a key concept in rentier state theory since its development in the 1980s. It predicts that reliance on state patronage breaks the link between effort and reward, leads to low achievement orientation in economic life and makes citizens politically passive. Yet the rentier mentality hypothesis has hardly been empirically tested to date. This paper seeks to fill this gap through an analysis of a range of GCC survey data, including a previously unpublished survey of Saudi citizens’ labour attitudes. A key descriptive finding is that many GCC citizens do indeed evince rentier attitudes when it comes to concrete life choices–but at the same time, a disproportionate share of them claim to be generally in favour of hard work, competition, and a small state. When it comes to politics, levels of interest are unusually high, but are coupled with high levels of loyalty and confidence in government. These results mean that while some aspects of rentier mentality are indeed prevalent, other attitudinal predictions of rentier state theory do not hold up–potentially because rentier states have adapted since the 1980s and used a range of social engineering tools to instil pro-business and patriotic beliefs on an abstract, ideational level.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2020 10:36
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 03:12

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