Libya since Independence: Oil and State-Building

Libya since Independence: Oil and State-Building

ISBN13: 9780801485350
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Although Libya and its current leader have been the subject of numerous accounts, few have considered how the country's tumultuous history, its institutional development, and its emergence as an oil economy combined to create a state whose rulers ignored the notion of modern statehood. International isolation and a legacy of internal turmoil have destroyed or left undocumented much of what researchers might seek to examine. Dirk Vandewalle supplies a detailed analysis of Libya's political and economic development since the country's independence in 1951, basing his account on fieldwork in Libya, archival research in Tripoli, and personal interviews with some of the country's top policymakers. Vandewalle argues that Libya represents an extreme example of what he calls a distributive state, an oil-exporting country where an attempt at state-building coincided with large inflows of capital while political and economic institutions were in their infancy. Libya's rulers eventually pursued policies that were politically expedient but proved economically ruinous, and disenfranchised local citizens. Distributive states, according to Vandewalle, may appear capable of resisting economic and political challenges, but they are ill prepared to implement policies that make the state and its institutions relevant to their citizens. Similar developments can be expected whenever local rulers do not have to extract resources from their citizens to fund the building of a modern state.

Type Book
Number Of Pages 226
Item Height 18 mm
Item Width 157 mm
Item Weight 271 Gram
Product Dimensions 157 x 18 x 224
Publisher Cornell University Press
Format Paperback | 226

Dirk Vandewalle provides the reader with a thought-provoking analysis of the impact of massive and sudden capital inflows on state-building in Libya, a state which, since independence in 1951, has relied almost exclusively on capital inflows in order to survive.... Libya since Independence offers new and unique perspectives and insights on the internal development of Libya after 1951. It should be considered required reading for any student of Libya.

* Middle East Journal *

This masterful study... makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Libyan political development. It is essential reading for any student of Libya, and provides excellent comparative material for both North Africa specialists and political economists interested in rentier development.

* Journal of North African Studies *

Vandewalle's book is not only a much needed and fresh look at the inner workings of Libya; it is also a very valuable contribution to an ongoing theoretical debate over rentier states, state-building, and etatism.

* International Journal of Middle East Studies *

Dirk Vandewalle knows more about contemporary Libya than almost anyone else in the social sciences. Libya since Independence brings the scholarly literature on contemporary Libyan politics up to the present.

-- Ellis Goldberg, University of Washington

This book about a rentier state adds a new dimension to the usual analysis. Rentier states, it is said, buy the compliance of their people with externally derived revenues instead of granting them representation in exchange for taxes. Dirk Vandewalle, in this excellent exploration of Libyan practice, goes further: such states may imagine they can do without public institutions altogether. Qadhafi abolished or obscured state instrumentalities with a wave of populist revolutionary committees and direct democracy. When the steep fall in oil revenues pricked the rentier bubble, Qadhafi had no institutions left to mount economic reforms and address the negative effect on wages and welfare. This work combines theoretical sophistication with thick description. Vandewalle's rich economic and political critique of a failed revolution gives face and features to a state and leader previously reduced to an incomprehensible stereotype.

-- Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, University of Chicago

This is one of those rare books that makes a large, comparative argument from a small, atypical case and does so persuasively. Vandewalle has long been known to Libyanists for his fine-grained appreciation of the country; with this book, he builds on his command of modern Libyan history and politics to construct and sustain an unusually sophisticated and provocative contribution to the theoretical debates about the nature of state revenues and the shape of the state itself. Vandewalle already had students of Libya eagerly awaiting this book, and they will not be disappointed, but his audience should widen to the broader community of students of international political economy, who will profit from this remarkably accessible and intelligent treatment of the origins and prospects of the distributive state.

-- Lisa Anderson, Columbia University

Dirk Vandewalle is Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Institute for International Development.