Dissertation and Book Project

Title: Redistributive Authoritarianism: Land Reform and Leader Tenure in the Middle East and North Africa

A growing literature on land reform under autocracy shows that leaders often use the expropriation and redistribution to disempower incumbent elites and to signal a credible commitment to potential coalition members. Although these strategies have been found to extend leader tenure in other regions, I find that leaders that pursue land reform in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have shorter tenures than non-reformers. This finding motivates my central research question: why are redistributive autocrats less likely to endure than their non-redistributive counterparts?

The answer, I argue, lies in understanding how leaders in post-colonial states resolve residual intra-elite conflict inherited from the colonial period. The legacies of European colonialism impacted the inclusivity of elite coalitions. In countries with legacies of exclusive coalitions, autocrats inherited more intense demands for redistribution than in countries with legacies of inclusive coalitions. Strong demands from previously excluded elites drove leaders to pursue radical land reforms post-independence. Concurrently, radical reformers must decide how to attract a loyal support coalition after redistribution is underway. Radical reformers who simultaneously extend cooptive state capacity through investment in and provision of ``soft’’ institutions (e.g., agricultural cooperatives, health, education) are more likely to send a credible signal to potential members of an expanded supporting coalition. Alternatively, autocrats that pursue radical reform and rely on the expansion of repressive institutions (e.g., the military, police) are less likely to attract new supporters and are consequently more vulnerable to ouster.

I provide mixed-methods evidence to process trace these dynamics at the cross-national and sub-national levels. First, I conduct a medium-N quantitative analysis to show how colonial legacies in MENA constrained regimes’ post-independence land redistribution strategies. Based on an original cross-country data set, my empirical findings suggest that radical, elite-targeted land redistribution occurs when the regime inherits an exclusive elite coalition from colonial rule on one hand, and a rising urban professional elite demanding reform on the other. Leaders that adopt these radical reforms are shown to be more likely to suffer irregular exit than those that adopt conservative reforms or none at all. In the second half of the book, I process trace these dynamics using detailed case studies of Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq, where I draw on subnational survey and observational data, as well as evidence from over 80 elite and stakeholder interviews, political biographies, government documents, and other primary-source Arabic material gathered during eighteen months of fieldwork in Jordan, the UK and the United States.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Hartnett, A. (2018) “The Effect of Refugee Integration on Migrant Labor in Jordan.” Review of Middle East Studies, 52(2): 263-282.

Working Papers

“In the Shadows? Informal Enterprise and the State in Jordan.” with Kristin Fabbe (Harvard Business School) and Steve Monroe (Princeton University). Under Review

“Colonial Legacies of Redistributive Conflict: Land Reform in the Middle East and North Africa.”

“Landed Elites and the Arrested Development of Iraqi State Capacity.”

“The Colonial Origins of State Repression in MENA.’’ with Elizabeth Nugent (Yale) and Nicholas Lotito (Yale).

“European Union Funding and Sub-National Euroscepticism: Evidence from Poland.” with Alexander Gard-Murray (Harvard University).

Book Chapters

“Colonialism and Long-Run Economic Development in MENA” with Gabriel Koehler-Derrick and Melani Cammett (to be included in the Oxford University Press Handbook on Politics of Muslim Societies, edited by Melani Cammett and Pauline Jones. In progress.

Encyclopedia Entries

Hartnett, A. (2011) Entries for Energy Policy in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, and Qatar in Encyclopedia of Energy. Croton-on-Hudson, New York: Golson Media.

Book Reviews

Hartnett, A. (2014) Review of Globalization & Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism and Social Justice, 2nd ed. by Valentine Moghadam. St. Antony’s International Review, 10(1): 135-37.

Policy Papers, Opinion Pieces, and Essays

Laith Fakhri Al-Ajlouni, Allison Spencer Hartnett. “Making the Economy Political in Jordan’s Tax Revolts,” Middle East Report Online, February 24, 2019.

“Colonial Legacies of Uneven State Development in MENA,” POMEPS Collection on Social Policy in the Middle East, October 19, 2018.

“Can Jordan’s New Prime Minister Reform the Government?” The Monkey Cage Blog, The Washington Post, June 13, 2018.

Wilson, G and Hartnett, A. Guidance on Fragile States for the Stabilisation Unit. United Kingdom Department for International Development, June 2016.

Hartnett, A. Protest, Unrest and State-Society Relations. International Peace Institute, June 2014.