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Rentier Capitalism and Countermovements in Central Asia: The Moral Economy Perspective

Lecture by Balihar Sanghera, University of Kent.

This lecture examines the moral economy of rent extraction in Central Asia. The rentier class has extracted rent through the ownership and control of scarce assets, such as credit money, shares, real estate, natural resources, radio spectrum and intellectual property. Rent is unearned income and parasitic, siphoning off surplus value produced by others. Neoliberalism has justified, promoted and normalised this form of income. The lecture is divided into three parts. The first part will explain how rent extraction has been justified and legitimised by economic elites, the judiciary and international financial institutions in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The second part will discuss the harmful and damaging effects of rentier activities on economic development, people’s well-being, the environment and democracy. The third part will examine how grassroots movements have emerged to counter the neoliberal commodification of land, money and labour. These movements’ achievements have been mixed given the unequal relationship between political regimes and marginalised groups.

The lecture will make three contributions to the existing scholarship. First, while the extant literature usually emphasises natural resource rent and public rent-seeking, this lecture will explore forms of rent and rentierism that involve non-resource assets and legal extraction by businesses. Second, it will put back capital, class and the state at the centre of critical analysis of the region, in particular focusing on the importance of the rentier class. Third, it will not merely describe and explain dominant economic arrangements, it will morally evaluate them in terms of their implications on human flourishing and suffering.

Balihar Sanghera is a senior lecturer in sociology at University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. His recent book is Rentier Capitalism and Its Discontents: Power, Morality and Resistance in Central Asia (co-authored with Elmira Satybaldieva). His papers have appeared in Europe-Asia Studies, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Theory and Society, International Sociology, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, and The Sociological Review.

The lecture will be held online, please register here: https://tinyurl.com/j82wrfp4

This event is part of the lecture series:
ZMO Colloquium Winter Semester 2021/22
Political Economies of Original Inhabitation