Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

The Gulf Moment and the Making of the Khaleeji State

| Apr. 05, 2024

The paper argues for putting aside the old rentier state paradigm that has long dominated Gulf literature, considering the emergence of both the Gulf Moment and the United Arab Emirates Momentum (henceforth UAE Momentum). Instead, it offers a novel analytical concept of the Khaleeji state, incorporating both the exceptionalist and normalist approaches to Gulf studies. The Khaleeji state is also a way to comprehend the unfolding of the Gulf Moment. The term Gulf Moment indicates the profound influence that the Arab Gulf States (AGS) maintain over the rest of the Arab world at the turn of the twenty-first century. The UAE momentum is currently the main engine of the Gulf Moment.

The Gulf Moment is no longer driven by oil but influenced by good governance, ideological pragmatism, and adaptation to best global practices. The challenges facing the Gulf Moment include the demographic imbalance in the AGS— whereby its citizens are becoming a disappearing minority in their own countries—regional instability due to violence and armed conflict, and the region’s pending democratic transition.

The notion Khaleejiness is used as an identity that unites the citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) under a common history and destiny. It conveys an urge to form a Khaleeji political unity, which is one of the key goals of the GCC. Khaleeji identity builds on strong cultural homogeneity within the Gulf states, as the result of a long history of sustained social engagement and intermarriage. It also features prominently in popular culture, music, television, sports, civil society, and reaches all the way to the top decision-making levels of government. The key institutional pillar is the Khaleeji ruling families in each of the six AGS. The monarchies and rulers of the Gulf are the most constant feature of the Gulf Moment and the Khaleeji state, society, and economy, more so than any other features, including oil. Socially, the Khaleeji middle class is the social power base of the Khaleeji state and for the Khaleeji ruling families. The Khaleeji state is built around a new Khaleeji economy, which is neither exclusively oil-based nor entirely rentier. The UAE is its front-runner, paving the way for the rest. The notion of the Khaleeji state is an analytical attempt to better understand the essence of AGS contemporary realities, beyond the rentier state paradigm.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Abdulla, Abdulkhaleq. “The Gulf Moment and the Making of the Khaleeji State.” Paper, April 5, 2024.

The Author