Most research on the Gulf states focuses on oil and its impact on state power. The literature on rentier theory almost unanimously agrees that oil rents buy off citizens and lead to socio-political stagnation. Massive protests and government attempts to address citizen demands in Kuwait between 2011 and 2013 call into question that narrative. Since those protests, the Kuwaiti government has taken steps to increase its representation of public officials and accessibility in the public sphere, including by expanding the government's presence on Instagram. How have Kuwaiti citizens voiced their opinions to government accounts? And how has the government responded to online criticism?
This essay looks at the pattern of interactions between the state and Kuwaiti citizens on Twitter and Instagram using a content analysis of government accounts. The findings raise questions about the validity of the payoff thesis and understandings of consent and acquiescence. My analysis illustrates that there is a public dialogue that moves beyond the rigid structure of state and society by which the literature has traditionally understood Gulf rentier societies.
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