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Migration Rentiers -- The Political Economy of Mobility in the Middle East
How has the phenomenon of cross-border mobility affected the politics of the Middle Eastern state? The relevant literature in comparative politics on the nature of the Middle Eastern state tends to overlook the importance of migration in shaping political processes, while the field of migration studies has historically highlighted questions of conflict-driven forced displacement in the region. In this paper, we bring research migration in conversation with the extensive work on rentier politics, in an effort to move the latter beyond discussions of oil or natural resources. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data, we inductively argue that cross-border mobility produces migration rentier states along three dimensions: migration rentier states that develop as a result of labour emigration and immigration; refugee rentier states that depend on development and humanitarian aid geared towards the management of migration and asylum; and, finally, symbolic rentier states that benefit from migration for ideological or soft power purposes. The paper proceeds to put forth a typology of different migration rentiers and rent-seeking strategies that connect states, society, and market actors in this process. Overall, it identifies the utility of migration rentierism in order to understand the importance of cross-border mobility in shaping the political economy of the contemporary Middle East.
Political Science
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area