HISTORY OF KUWAIT'S POLICY BEFORE THE OIL (1750-1930)

Derya SÜRMELİOĞLU PARLAR

It is seen that the classical rentier state approach seeking to explain the economic and political process of Gulf states fails to explain the political structure of the State of Kuwait. On the other hand, although the political life of Kuwait operates even at a snail’s pace despite the monarchic structure, it displays a more participatory nature in comparison to those of the other Gulf states. One of the underlying reasons is the political experience the country had before oil. Kuwait’s political history before oil partly weakens the rentier state approach claiming that the wealth coming with oil causes political passivism in society. In this context, the political life in Kuwait is the subject of this paper. This paper analyzes the actors who were active in the foundation of Kuwait and their roles in the political life of Kuwait. It is seen that, contrary to what is believed, El-Sabah family was not the only actor active in the foundation process of Kuwait, but also Bani Utub tribe which consists of leading families of the respective lands and covers El-Sabah family also played an important role during the process. Merchant class who hold the economic wealth and to whom the administrators economically depend on seem to have been as effective as the administrators influencing and shaping the political life. For this reason, it is obvious that “joint governance culture” dominating the era at the time being played an important role in the political life of Kuwait, with its impacts on the domestic political life in the period after oil. The study seeks to shed a light to the current political tradition of Kuwait, by analyzing the politics of Kuwait before oil.

Key words: politics of Kuwait, El-Sabah family, joint governance, Bani Utub tribe, merchant class, 1921 Assembly