GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
The Political Economy of Migration and Sabotage Across the Gulf
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper explores how migrant groups influence policymaking across the Gulf. Even as their numbers have grown exponentially, migrants have remained politically disenfranchised and socially excluded throughout the Gulf. Having been systematically marginalized, these communities are often viewed as powerless. According to the conventional wisdom, this vulnerability results in constant abuse and exploitation of these migrant populations. And while there is certainly some truth to this claim, this paper hopes to complicate the standard narrative by exploring how migrants influence policymaking and the effects this has on distributive outcomes and welfare across the Gulf.

This paper offers a novel theory that predicts the conditions under which marginalized groups can extract concessions from non-democratic regimes. The Gulf’s rapid and unabated development has resulted in a structural dependence on foreign labor. This dependence continues to grow as infrastructure projects and other industries maintain a high demand for labor. Such dependence has made these regimes vulnerable, affording migrant groups new means by which they can influence policymaking. From labor strikes to protests and even riots, resistance can take many forms in the Gulf. These acts, what I refer to as economic sabotage, may not directly jeopardize regime stability but nonetheless influence policymaking by exacting a cost on the ruler and his supporters. Sabotage threatens production and development, having a profound effect on these regimes’ longterm stability. To capture these effects, and better understand the conditions under which they occur, I develop a formal model of sabotage. The model generates a series of predictions on when sabotage occurs, what form it takes and how rulers respond through spatial planning and distributive policies.

The paper then tests these predictions by drawing on various data from across the Gulf. Combining survey, economic and spatial data, I explore trends in migration and distributive policies in the GCC states. Despite their many similarities, these countries actually reveal distinct equilibria, varying in the degree of sabotage and their distributive outcomes. Ultimately, they help show how varied and complex the distributive politics around migration can be. Capturing these dynamics is critical to understanding the broader political and social costs of migration for the future of the Gulf.