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The Post Arab Spring Regime Security Strategy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

HEDGES, MATTHEW,JAMES (2021) The Post Arab Spring Regime Security Strategy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 11 January 2024.


The persistence of authoritarian governance in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has long been the focus of much discussion in the social sciences. Studies have sought to explain how and why authoritarian states are able to maintain power through turbulent periods. In particular, theories of civil-military relations, most of it originating in Western academia, has often provided the theoretical foundation for exploring regime security in non-democratic societies. This thesis acknowledges and builds upon these studies, but recognises how paradigms applied to explore the phenomenon of authoritarian resilience are inadequate when applied to the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Across the Gulf monarchies, the authoritarian leader holds a supreme position within the state, a position amplified by traditional socio-cultural links such as tribalism, the ability to co-opt much of the religious establishment and, of course, the social contract particular to much of the Gulf monarchies, Rentierism in its varied forms. As a result, the importance of regime security is prioritised over that of the nation and of the state. When summarised and applied universally, two approaches are generally taken to maintain the security of the regime; enforcement of power and maintenance of power. The method highlighted within this thesis emphasises the direct oversight and micro-management built into a monarch’s system of control and authority. At the centre of this strategy is the supervision of the human network that not only provides their reign with legitimacy but also their conduit for control.

This thesis develops a new model for regime security that acknowledges the socio-cultural characteristics of traditional authoritarian states. Corporate and clientelist elements support the structuring of power that is designed to principally defend the regime. These sectors have long been prioritised and nurtured by elites in a bid to maximise control over capabilities and persons within these fields. The regime’s control of the military and surveillance sectors help amplify their enforcement of power, while the micro-management of the economy and industrial sectors aid the sustained ability to maintain power. This paradigm is defined as the neo-corporate praetorian (NCP) model, and it assumes the dual-tiered structure of power within a modern authoritarian state.

This thesis develops these observations to explore how the Abu Dhabi ruling family has fused the federal identity of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) into prioritising the security of the regime over that of the nation and the state. The case study of the UAE is unique because of the multiple images of identity and their network of allegiances across the UAE. Examined further, this concentration of power within the regime is focused further through maternal, tribal and kinship bonds that are deliberately nurtured to provide sustained security and continuity.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:UAE, Regime Security, Civil-Military Relations, Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, Kinship, Power, Strategy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 Jan 2021 11:23

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