Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies

The Gulf Monarchies: From Arab Spring to Counter-Revolution

Dr Chris Davidson, Durham University

Tuesday 11 November 2014

 
Lecture hall

The talk was very well attended and the extended Q&A sessions afterwards (including a live Twitter feed) gave the opportunity for the audience and the wider community a chance to interact directly with one of the most prominent scholars in the field.

 

Following up on its first talk of the academic year, the Conflict, Security and International Order Cluster at POLIS, was delighted to host Dr. Chris Davidson at the University of Bath on 11 November 2014. His talk was entitled ‘The Gulf Monarchies: From Arab Spring to Counter-Revolution.’ Dr. Davidson, who is a Reader in Politics at Durham University, focused on the strategies of Gulf Monarchies to maintain control over their respective territories in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Emerging late in 2010, the Arab Spring took the world by storm as local protests in Tunisia were quickly emulated throughout the Arab world. Demonstrations hastily gave way to demands for significant change in the status quo. By 2012 governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya had been overthrown; Syria was (and remains) in the midst of a civil war and the remaining regimes continue to brace for the future.

The developments related to the Arab Spring, however, have not had much impact on the monarchies of the Gulf (such as the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait) so far. Dr Davidson’s talk focused on discussing how these states have proved so resilient in the face of a challenge that has had far reaching impact on a number of countries in other parts of the Middle East.

In response to the Arab Spring, the Monarchies appear to have reverted to their trusted strategy of mass pubic spending, with some estimates placing joint expenditure at $500 billion in 2011 and 2012 alone. As opposed to a number of prominent Middle Eastern Republics, such as Syria or Libya, these regimes have been able to transfer wealth derived from oil revenues directly to the population, in essence creating a situation where life is better under the regime rather than outside. In addition they have managed to forge social contracts that go beyond the distribution of wealth, creating personal leadership cults that enshrine their right to rule, as well as partnerships with Islamic clerics through lavish state sponsorship in exchange for tacit support. These states have also been shifting their once reactive foreign policies to ones reminiscent of offensive realism, with cliques actively working against each other to foster certain outcomes in the region, particularly the contested grounds of Egypt and Libya.

While the Gulf Monarchies have managed to weather the storm to date, their tactics may soon be at their ends. However as oil prices continue to drop past breakeven points (i.e. the price per barrel these Monarchies need to continue to avoid major deficits) the question rises as to how long they can continue to ‘spend’ their problems away. Moreover through related crackdowns on opposition its becomes increasingly difficult to claim legitimacy in the public realm.

The talk was very well attended and the extended Q&A sessions afterwards (including a live Twitter feed) gave the opportunity for the audience and the wider community a chance to interact directly with one of the most prominent scholars in the field.