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Title: Citizen Hariri and neoliberal politics in postwar Lebanon
Author: Baumann, Hannes
ISNI:       0000 0004 2741 7906
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2012
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The biography of the Lebanese businessman-politician Rafiq Hariri explores the different economic, political, cultural, and 'imperial' projects contained in neoliberalism. Rafiq Hariri (1944-2005) accumulated great wealth as a contractor in Saudi Arabia during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), served as Lebanese prime minister (1992-1998, 2000-2004), and pushed through a neoliberal reconstruction programme. In February 2005 he was assassinated, prompting a UN investigation. Hariri belonged to the 'transnational capitalist class' but his rise is not just due to the impersonal dynamics of global capitalism, it must also be placed within the specific historical sociology of Lebanon: the production and reproduction of classes, elites, networks, and the culture of sectarianism. Rafiq Hariri's rise is due to changes in Lebanon's role in the world economy and in its class structure. Thanks to Saudi support, Hariri was the most successful member of a 'new contractor bourgeoisie' of Lebanese who had grown wealthy in the Gulf and pursued a neoliberal project in post-war Lebanon. Hariri and allied technocrats put in place two neoliberal rent-creation mechanisms: reconstruction of Beirut's city centre and financialisation through government over-borrowing. Former militia leaders prevented further neoliberal reforms: privatisation and cutting welfare spending, which was a patronage resource. Class interest was mediated by elites, which is a more open category than class, not least because it incorporates sectarian identity. Hariri transformed himself from a 'national' leader to a specifically 'Sunni' leader from the mid-1990s onwards. His sectarian provision of health and education services was a response to pressure from rival elites on his neoliberal project. His philanthropy reproduced the culture of sectarianism. Changes in US imperial strategy from the 1980s to 2005 affected Hariri's relationship with Damascus. US-Syrian conflict led to Saudi-Syrian tension and curtailed Hariri's room for manoeuvre in Lebanon. Hariri's network of technocrats, experts in sectarian mobilisation, Syrian regime members, etc. is an artefact that allows his biographer to locate agency in neoliberal globalisation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral