Nimah Mazaheri – Hydrocarbon Citizens
Many nations that are rich in oil and natural resources are plagued by undemocratic politics, war and civil conflict, corrupt governments, and volatile economies. Scholars have pointed to a “resource curse” as a root of the problem: the notion that valuable natural resources are connected to serious social, political, and economic problems. Entirely missing from the story, however, is an understanding about the role of the public in oil nations–specifically, the attitudes, values, and ideals they hold about important social, political, and economic issues.
In Hydrocarbon Citizens, Nimah Mazaheri tells the story of how the discovery of oil dramatically transformed politics and society in the Middle East. He argues that the creation of oil-dependent economies cultivated a new type of citizen in the region: the “hydrocarbon citizen.” These citizens hold attitudes, values, and beliefs about their governments and national politics that are very different from what is observed in countries that do not produce oil. Hydrocarbon citizens tend to view their governments as highly effective, generous, helpful, and responsive to the basic needs of society compared to the citizens of countries without oil. Hydrocarbon citizens also tend to be skeptical about the merits of democratization and more likely to believe that democratic governments are ineffective, unstable, and full of problems.
Including a rich historical discussion, in-depth analysis of public opinion data, and original surveys conducted among Saudi Arabians and Emiratis, Mazaheri offers a new way of understanding the puzzling “resource curse” that has afflicted mineral-dependent nations around the world. Moreover, he provides a new way of thinking about current politics in the Middle East and explains why some of the region’s long-lasting autocracies have been successful in resisting the rise of democracy.