Libya since Independence

Libya since Independence : Oil and State-building

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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 232 pages
  • 157.48 x 223.52 x 17.78mm | 272.15g
  • Ithaca, United States
  • English
  • 1 Illustrations, unspecified
  • 0801485355
  • 9780801485350

Table of contents

List of Acronyms


Note on Transliteration

Chronology, 1951-1996


Chapter 1. Introduction: Issues and Framework

Situating the Debate

The Libyan Monarchy and Jamahiriyya


Chapter 2. The Distributive State

State Formation: Revenues and Institutions

State-Building in Distributive States

Politics and Development in Distributive States

Distributive States: Oil and History

State Strength, Autonomy, and Social Setting


Chapter 3. Shadow of the Past: The Sanusi Kingdom

The Sanusi Kingdom and the Colonial Legacy

Libya's First Oil Boom: State-Building and Institutions


Chapter 4. From Kingdom to Republic: The Qadhafi Coup

Political Consolidation and Mobilization

The Popular Revolution and the Pursuit of Legitimacy

From Concession to Participation: Oil and Development


Chapter 5. Thawra and Tharwa: Libya's Boom-and-Bust Decade

Technocrats versus Revolutionaries: Transition toward a Jamahiriyya

The Green Book: Popular Rule

Popular and Revolutionary Means of Governing

The Green Book: Popular Management

Postponing Reform: The Last Great Spender of Petrodollars

Postponing Reform; Confrontation Abroad, Mobilization at Home

The Politics of Evocation: Myths, Symbols, and Charisma

Emerging Problems of Control

Oil and State-Building during Libya's Revolutionary Decade


Chapter 6, Shadow of the Future: Libya's Failed Infitah

"Revolution within the Revolution"

Libya's Infitah

Markets, Institutions, and Economic Reform

Growth and Development



Chapter 7. Oil and State-Building in Distributive States: The Libyan Contribution

State-Building, Institutions, and Rent-Seeking in Distributive States

The Power of the Distributive State

Power or Wealth: Politics in Distributive States

State-Building in the Jamahiriyya: Observations on the Future

Oil, State-Building, and Politics

Bibliographical Note

Selected Bibliography

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Review quote

"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 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 "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"-Azzedine Layachi, International Journal of Middle East Studies (Vol. 32) "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."-Ronald Bruce St. John, Middle East Journal (Vol. 54, No. 3) "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."-John Barger, Journal of North African Studies (Autumn 1998)
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