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Libyan Statelessness: Past and Present

Authors:

Abstract

Optimistic observers in the international diplomatic and academic communities assumed that the 2011 revolution in Libya which overthrew Colonel Muammar al- Qadhafi would simply replace his regime with a democratic system that would inherit the established instruments of the Libyan state. This thesis demonstrates that this view was a misconception, and explains that in Libya there was only the veneer of a modern nation state masking an underlying fragmented, almost pre-modern socio- political reality, which was the product of unique historical developments. It argues that the 2011 revolution removed this veneer, revealing and revitalizing the fragmented sui generis Libyan reality. This thesis will, therefore, seek to explore key themes in the past and present of Libyan Statehood in order to better understand why Libya lacks coherent governance institutions, and both domestic and external attempts to foster them have met with failure.
Libyan Statelessness: Past and Present
AbduRahman Alageli
Dissertation
Kings College London
Department of War Studies
MA War Studies
August 2016
Dissertation supervisor: Neville Bolt
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DECLARATION
This dissertation is the sole work of the author, and has not been accepted in any
previous application for a degree; all quotations and sources of information have been
acknowledged.
AbduRahman Alageli
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ABSTRACT
Optimistic observers in the international diplomatic and academic communities
assumed that the 2011 revolution in Libya which overthrew Colonel Muammar al-
Qadhafi would simply replace his regime with a democratic system that would inherit
the established instruments of the Libyan state. This thesis demonstrates that this view
was a misconception, and explains that in Libya there was only the veneer of a
modern nation state masking an underlying fragmented, almost pre-modern socio-
political reality, which was the product of unique historical developments. It argues
that the 2011 revolution removed this veneer, revealing and revitalizing the
fragmented sui generis Libyan reality. This thesis will, therefore, seek to explore key
themes in the past and present of Libyan Statehood in order to better understand why
Libya lacks coherent governance institutions, and both domestic and external attempts
to foster them have met with failure.
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Table of Contents
Introduction!............................................................................................................................!6!
Existing knowledge and lacunae!..................................................................................................!8!
Objectives, Structure and methodology!.....................................................................................!10!
Chapter 1: Theories of Statehood and applicability to Libya!........................................!12!
Chapter 2: Statelessness and Social Forces in Libya's past!...........................................!25!
Chapter 3: Al-Qadhafi’s Rule: Patronage, Rentierism and Manipulation!...................!37!
Chapter 4: The return to Statelessness post-2011!...........................................................!53!
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Figure 11
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1 Cole, P., Mangan, F., & United States Institute of Peace,. (2016). Tribe, security, justice, and peace in
Libya today. Washington, DC : United States Institute of Peace,
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Introduction
This thesis seeks to understand the historical, socio-economic and political dynamics
that underlie why the 2011 revolution returned Libya to its traditional position as a
non-state where civil war is rife, ineffectual institutions are incapable of ‘reforming’
or providing basic services, and militias, competing governments and power brokers
vie for a stake in the country.
In addition, this thesis will identify some narratives in present day Libya that have
deep roots, highlighting the direct connection between past and present.
If one delves into Libya’s history, one finds a partially stateless past where highly
localized social structures built around kinship networks vied for local autonomy. The
period of history until independence in 1951 represents a ‘timeless past’, and created
‘images’ of statelessness and individual sovereignty (i.e. free will, self governance
and distrust/freedom from authority) that would become internalized in the Libyan
mind-set and manifested in reality through the entrenchment of powerful social
organizations. These organizations represented the local reality politically and thus
enjoyed more legitimacy than the Central authority (the Centre).
Rather than overpowering and changing this fundamental reality, Libya’s rulers past
and present manipulated and managed it, in the process distorting Libya’s nascent
institutional development and using it to sustain themselves in power. It is thus
debatable whether a modern nation state with functional governance instruments ever
existed in the first place, and whether the European colonial expansion and
dominance of the 19th-20th century imposed, by force, institutions and notions of
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legitimacy and state that were essentially different if not alien to the existing systems
of legitimacy and authority in the region.
The principles of individual sovereignty and statelessness that existed locally were
espoused and reinforced by Muammar al-Qadhafi in his Third Universal Theory.2
However, they clashed with the reality of his governance system that combined
totalitarianism with anarcho-communist/syndicalist structures. This system combined
the centralized control of oil wealth and the military and security apparatus with the
decentralized and ineffective anarcho-communist/syndicalist type structures of the
Jamahiriya3 system of governance.
Al-Qadhafi utilized hydrocarbon income to create an implicit social contract of
patronage and dependency by forming State institutions whose main purpose was to
distribute oil money to the citizen through ‘jobs’ in the public sector. This personal
control over capital and coercion led to the manifestation of the Weberian elements of
sovereignty in Al-Qadhafi individually4, rather than the State, making him the
fundamental stabilizer of this distorted system.
This thesis will explore how these structural distortions created the environment that
lead to the revolution in 2011 and will argue that it was Al-Qadhafi’s individualized
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2 The Third Universal Theory is Muammar al-Qadhafi’s theory outlined in ‘The Green Book’, which is
meant as a ‘third way’ instead of communism and capitalism, and is inspired by the concepts of direct
democracy, Islamic socialism and Arab Nationalism
3 Jamahiriya literally means state of the masses. The Jamahiriya system is based on the governance of
the populace through popular congresses, councils and communes, and was meant to be a direct
democracy without political parties. It is part of al-Qadhafi’s political philosophy as laid out in The
Green Book. Libya was officially called The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
4 Joffe, G (2008) Prodigal or pariah? Foreign policy in Libya in Vandewalle, D. J. (2008). Libya since
1969: Qadhafi's revolution revisited. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
; Hinnebusch, R. (1984). Charisma, Revolution, and State Formation: Qaddafi and Libya. Third World
Quarterly, 6(1), 59-73.
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sovereignty and the networks associated with it, rather than the State itself, that the
2011 revolution targeted and atomized. The revolution destroyed Al-Qadhafi’s ability
to monopolize force through mediation and removed him as the fundamental
stabilizer of the socio-political system. The post-revolution authorities utilized the
same distorted system, but failed to provide the same stabilizing function, which made
Libya a battle space for competing social forces fighting over control of the old
patronage system. This led to the empowerment of social forces as semi-independent
socio-political-economic and military organizations in the same they were historically
and thus returning Libya to its pre-independence, semi Hobbesian natural state.
Existing knowledge and lacunae
The on-going conflict in Libya and the recentness of the 2011 revolution has meant
that the collection and publication of detailed sociological statistics and data has been
non-existent, and peer reviewed academic literature on post-2011 Libya is few and far
between. Much of the available literature focuses on analysing the current situation
from security and political centric perspectives, labelling Libya as a failed state5, and
examining key political developments and conflicts, trying to understand the
motivation of various actors on which there is a wealth of open source information.
However, the amount of literature linking the past directly with the present and
questioning the viability of the nation state model in Libya is limited. Literature on
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Goldstone, J. A. (December 01, 2008). Pathways to state failure. Conflict Management and Peace
Science, 25, 4, 285-296.
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state building in Libya mostly uses the liberal peace building approach6, using various
developmental strategies that contribute to creating a liberal democracy, an approach
that has been criticized for ignoring the native social reality, not producing the desired
result in other post-conflict situations.7 Literature on theories of the state is mainly
Eurocentric8 in focus, and this thesis will briefly discuss its applicability to the Libyan
case.
As for literature on pre-2011 Libya, many of the social anthropologists studying the
region in the late 19th and early 20th century take a Eurocentric approach, damning the
pre-colonial period as backwards and uncivilized in order to justify the modernizing
European influence.9 Similarly, Libyan scholarship often suffers from bias and
disagreement over different narrations of historical events. Oral history was widely
used to record key events but it is not easily accessible to most researchers, and may
not be deemed as reliable. These factors create both an opportunity and a void in
Libyan scholarship that was filled by a handful of authors who will be cited heavily
during this thesis.
There were restrictions imposed by the Al-Qadhafi regime (1969-2011) on data
collection and research in Libya, and so there is limited in-depth academic literature
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6 ‘’A key element of these debates relates to the nature and impact of liberal
peacebuilding: the promotion of democracy, market-based economic reforms and a range of other
institutions associated with ‘‘modern’’ states as a driving force for building ‘‘peace’’.’’ New
perspectives on liberal peacebuilding, Newman, Paris and Richmond (eds), United Nations University
Press, 2009;
7 Jan Selby (2013): The myth of liberal peace-building, Conflict, Security &
Development, 13:1, 57-86
8 Eurocentric is often used interchangeably with western centric, see Hobson, John (2012). The
Eurocentric conception of world politics : western international theory, 1760-2010; Samir Amin:
L’eurocentrisme, critique d’une idéologie. Paris 1988, engl. Eurocentrism, Monthly Review Press 1989,
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analysing its systems of governance, however, the literature that is available is
extremely detailed and useful.
Objectives, Structure and methodology
This thesis will use a number of key themes in order to make the above-explained
conjecture. Those themes are: the applicability of the modern nation state concept to
Libya; the analysis of native social forces; the impact of oil; and the concept of
statelessness.
The first section, “Theories of statehood and applicability to Libya”, will use an inter-
disciplinary approach to consider these main themes, beginning by taking a broad
look at some of the mainly euro-centric theories of the State, the ideas underlying
them and questioning their applicability to Libya, while acknowledging some of the
existing, but ultimately limited, literature on Libya.
The second section, “History of statelessness and social forces in Libya”, will look at
Libya historically to examine the social forces that existed and how they were
organized, and to identify whether there is indeed a precedent for Libya’s unique form
of statelessness by looking at the historical failure of central authorities to establish
control over the hinterlands.
The third section, al-Qadhafi’s rule: patronage, rentierism and manipulation, will
focus on the period of Al-Qadhafi’s rule to describe the nature of the contradictory
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system he created, and how he managed it using the manipulation of social forces and
the creation of a distributive patronage system built on hydrocarbon revenues.
The final section, “Fragmentation and return to statelessness post-2011”, will discuss
whether Libya has indeed defaulted back to its natural stateless condition by exploring
the current fragmentation, describing the semi-autonomous nature of the various
social forces, arguing that many of the armed groups are extensions of these social
structures and enjoy local legitimacy in the same way they did historically.
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Chapter 1: Theories of Statehood and applicability to Libya
Definitions of State: Eurocentric sources of legitimacy and authority
From a theoretical perspective, there are a number of ambiguities in relation to the
definition of key concepts, such as the state, nation, government and nationalism and
their differentiations,’10 Edward Heath Robinson discusses the ambiguity in the study
of state and government11 and Paul James describes them as ‘vague, elusive and
historically changing concepts’.12 The most widely used definitions of the state refer
to Westphalian or Weberian notions which will be looked at below, and the
Montevideo convention on the rights and duties of states.13 Many of these notions are
considered state centred theories. James’s focus is on the broad process of how
nations are formed, including identity as an abstract concept. He takes a slightly
broader view than nation building that mainly focuses on the formation of national
identity. For the purposes of this thesis, state formation refers to the evolution of
government control over its subjects14, and will be looked at within the wider process
of key structural transformations15.
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10 James, Paul (1996). Nation Formation: Towards a Theory of Abstract Community. London: Sage
Publications
11 http://www.edwardheath.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/State_and_Government.pdf
12 ibid
13 '(a)a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into
relations with other States' (Montevideo Convention 1933)
14 Ahmida (1994)
15 Anderson, L. (1986). The state and social transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980.
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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Sāṭi` al-urī, (1882 – 1968), an Arab nationalist thinker, differentiates between al-
watan (the fatherland or homeland), and al-ummah (the nation). He splits the watan
or fatherland into two: a particular fatherland (watan khass) and the comprehensive or
general ideal or shared/communal fatherland (watan aam), his conception of the
territorially organized state or dawla lies within this framework. He thus makes a
distinction between State and Nation, he describes the nation or al-ummah as
comprising people bound together by ties of language, history and tradition.16
States have over the last two centuries become the dominant political entity on which
international relations are based. Hadley Bull’s The Anarchical Society: A Study of
Order in World Politics, discusses the undermining of state sovereignty in an era of
globalization and internal fragmentation, using the individual as the main unit of
analysis rather than the state17. Jorg Friedrich expanded on this analysis, describing
the fragmentation as a result of overlapping authorities, multiple loyalties and
competing universalistic logics.18
On state building, David Waldner’s State Building and Late Development describes
the transition from mediated to developed state, where a mediated state is
characterized as having hybrid political orders and institutional multiplicity.19 He
explains that the weakness of the central state elite forces them to collaborate with
local urban and rural elites who undertake tasks normally associated with sovereign
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16 ibid
17 Bull, Hedley. 1977.The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics. Columbia University
Press. 3rd Edition. Pp 245-246.
18 Friedrichs, Jorg. 2001. The Meaning of New Medievalism. European Journal of International
Relations. Vol 7(4). SAGE Publications. Pp 475-502.
19 Waldner, D. (1999). State building and late development. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press.
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states.20 He describes an un-mediated developed state as one where “a diverse array of
institutions connect centralized public authority to society and economy.’’21 This
thesis will demonstrate that the Libyan state has always been a mediated state
throughout its history to the present day, and that a veneer of statehood covered the
internally fragmented reality in order to enable Libya to engage economically and
politically with the international Westphalian system.
Max Weber’s defining conception of a state is a political organization that has
monopoly on the use of physical force in a certain geographical area, a monopoly that
must occur through a process of legitimation.22 This concept is built on Jean Bodin
and Thomas Hobbes’s conception of natural law and the Leviathan, a social contract
built around an undivided and strong government authority that can prevent the
inevitable civil war that may occur in his conception of the ‘state of nature’23, a
concept later tackled by Locke and Rousseau24 This thesis will also look at Nozick’s
analysis of the emergence of mutual protection associations in a Lockean state of
nature to understand post 2011 Libyan security dynamics.25
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20 ibid
21 ibid
22 Max Weber in Weber's Rationalism and Modern Society, translated and edited by Tony Waters and
Dagmar Waters. Palgrave Books 2015, p. 136
23 "Hobbes's Moral and Political Philosophy". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Retrieved 11
March 2009)
24 Locke, J., Shapiro, I., & Locke, J. (2003). Two treatises of government: And a letter concerning
toleration. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.
25 Nozick, R. (1974). Chapter 2: The State of Nature, from Anarchy, state, and Utopia.
. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.10-25,335-337
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Alternatively, Hegelian notions of legitimacy and sovereignty are based more on the
idea of the state as the ‘’realized ethical idea’’26. Many of these ideas were directly
influenced by events in Europe during this period, the English Civil War, the Thirty
and Eighty Years’ Wars in Europe leading to the peace of Westphalia in 1648, the
French Revolution and its aftermath, and the rise of nationalism in Europe. The
influence of these events on the Middle East under the Ottoman Empire was indirect,
and the economic rise of Europe required the Ottoman Empire to create systems of
taxation and trade regulations that mirrored or conceded to their European
counterparts, this precedent continued into the 20th century.
Marshall Hodgson’s books, The Venture of Islam. Conscience and History in a World
Civilization, and Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam and World
History, assert that the emergence of European dominance and imperialism are largely
the culmination of what he describes as the great Western Transmutation between
1600-180027, a process of increasing social, economic and intellectual transformations
whose early consequences were what Hobsbawn describes as the dual revolutions, i.e.
the French and Industrial revolutions28, leading eventually to the establishment of
European world hegemony. This view is also supported by Hodgson who suggests
that this process marked the change from ‘a traditional to a rational society’29 through
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Hegel, G. W. F., & Houlgate, S. (2008). Outlines of the philosophy of right. Oxford [UK: Oxford
University Press.
27 Hodgson, G.S. Marshall. Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam and World History.
pps.304-305. Cambridge University Press. 1993
28 Hobsbawm, E. J. (1962). The age of revolution, 1789-1848. Cleveland: World Pub. Co.
29 Hodgson (1993) p57
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a process of ‘’technicalization’’, which he uses to describe an all-encompassing socio
economic process of technical specialization.30
Charles Tilly, in his work on Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 900–1990,
(2000), alludes to this development in his predatory theory of state building, where
the internal preparation for, and conduct of war against external threats created both
internal and external legitimacy and sovereignty, particularly focusing on the
importance of a state’s fiscal capacity.31 Tilly, Skocpol and North, among others,
summarize this as the state’s ability to extract taxation necessitating the emergence of
a coercive monopoly and the development of impersonal ‘rational-legal’ bureaucratic
institutions to support these processes. The underlying point this thesis makes is that
in post Ottoman Libya, as a result of the dependence on either foreign aid as ‘rent’32
or dependence on hydrocarbon exports, this combination of taxation and coercive
monopoly did not arise.
Libya as a Eurocentric state?
The claim that state formation and modern institutions have taken root in some places
and not others because the necessary socio-economic and political transformations
that took place in Europe were missing is a general one but is one that has been
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30 ibid; see also Max Webers concept of rationalization and the iron cage model; Weber, Max (1922)
Die drei reinen Typen der legitimen Herrschaft, in Preussische Jahrbücher 187, 1-2, 1922; Weber,
Max (2015/1919). "Politics as Vocation" in Weber's Rationalism. Edited and Translated by Tony
Waters and Dagmar Waters, pp. 129198; 190405/1992. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
Capitalism, T. Parsons (trans.), A. Giddens (intro), London: Routledge.
31 Tilly, Charles: Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 9001990, Malden: Blackwell, 2000;
Tilly, Charles (ed.): Western-State Making and Theories of Political Transformation, in: The
Formation of National States in Western Europe, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.
32 Stems from Adam Smith's division of incomes into profit, wage, and rent, ‘’The reward received for
the ownership of resources natural and differential endowments; rather than the reward for
productively employing its utility, thereby generating income and profit’’, Swed, M (2014); see Smith ,
A. (1960) pp412. The Wealth of Nations (1776). London: Everyman's Library; Ricardo, D. (1962). The
Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1821). London: Everyman's Library pp590
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widely discussed in the literature.33 The question is: were these principals and
institutions applicable in Libya, or is there a different notion of legitimation of
authority that has taken root in Libya historically?
Direct European influence on Libyan socio-economic, political and ideological
development was limited prior to the 19th century, with relatively minor military
entanglements until then. European post-enlightenment discussions on legitimacy, the
social contract, sovereignty and the modern nation state were less relevant, if not alien,
to Libya and the wider Middle East, where different socio economic and political
junctures made understandings of Islamic and Arab social concepts more relevant.
European economic and military expansion in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries brought
with it the first prolonged experience of colonialism and imperialism and through that,
the modern nation state.
This point was related by Bertrand Brodie regarding the imported nature of the
modern state in the Middle East34, however, this point was later criticized by Sami
Zubeida who argued against Middle Eastern essentialism, stating that the current
middle eastern politics is essentially modern and built upon the ‘’models and
assumptions of modern nation state politics[as imposed on the region during the
colonial period].’’35 Edward Said’s post structuralist works suggested that notions of
orientalism and Eurocentrism were used to exaggerate the differences between the
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33 Spencer, Charles S.; Redmond, Elsa M. (2004). "Primary State Formation in Mesoamerica". Annual
Review of Anthropology. 33: 173199
34 Badie, B. (2000). The imported state: The westernization of the political order. Stanford, Calif:
Stanford University Press.
35 Zubeida, S, (1993), Islam, the People and the State: Political Ideas and Movements in the Middle
East
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‘orient’ and the ‘occident’ in order to justify Western imperialism and colonialism in
the Middle East.36 Ahmida makes this point when he states:
“The process of incorporating Libya into the colonial capitalist world system was not
a linear progression from pre-capitalist to capitalist relations. Rather the process was
resisted and in fact modified during the colonial period.’’37
Writers such as Lisa Anderson in The state and social transformation in Tunisia and
Libya, 1830-1980 (1986) and Ali Abdullatif Ahmida, in The Making of Modern Libya,
State Formation, Colonization and Resistance deal with the effects of colonialism on
state formation in Libya in depth, with Anderson making an important point when she
remarks:
‘’The overwhelming power of and wealth of Europe in the age of imperialism often
prompted the reorganization of the local economy and political structures, not so
much in the European image as in its interests.’’38
Anderson compares two similar and historically linked regions, Tunisia and Libya, in
terms of their different state formation trajectories. She argues that Tunisia and Libya
were both largely similar in the beginning of the 19th century in terms of the social,
political and economic structures, with kinship structures playing a substantial role in
politics, society and economy, but that experiences under the ‘’defensive
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36 Said, E. W. (1979). Orientalism, Vintage Books
37 ibid
38 Anderson, L. (1986). The state and social transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980.
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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modernization’’39 of the Ottomans and the subsequent dramatic difference between
French colonialism in Tunis and Italian in Libya marked the divergence in terms of
state formation and development. This relates to the thesis by showing that Libya is
indeed an exceptional case in terms of state formation, and that ‘modern’ institutions
did not replace the social forces prevalent in society, but rather were loosely grafted
on top of them or constructed and infiltrated by hegemonic primordial social segments.
She describes how France largely supported the emergence of an increasingly stable
and impersonal state bureaucracy, reducing the role of tribe and kinship in the state,
while Italy destroyed the already weak Ottoman state system in Libya, choosing
instead to brutalize and marginalize Libyans from the Italian dominated bureaucracy,
creating a revitalization of tribe and kinship structures and alliances.
The 20th century political processes in the Middle East are indeed part of the modern
nation state framework, as posited by Zubeida, but writers such as Ali Abdullatif
Ahmida suggest that these are essentially a continuation of Eurocentric systems
imposed during the colonial era. Ahmida also rejects orientalist and essentialist views
of the Muslim world, but similarly rejects Eurocentric theories of the state that
‘’ignore the internal dynamics of native social history’’.40
Hodgson also contrasts Eurocentric theories of the state by stating that in ‘Islamdom’,
“ultimate legitimacy lies not in autonomous corporative offices but in egalitarian
contractual responsibilities.’’41 He expands on this with a crucial point:
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39 referring to the Ottoman tanzimat reforms from 1839-1876
40 Ahmida (1994), A. A. (1994). The making of Modern Libya; State formation, colonisation, and
Resistance, 1830-1932. Albany : State University of New York Press.
p5
41 Hodgson (1993)
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‘’The model that defined public duties thus in the form of personal responsibilities
was the ingenious sharia principle of the reduction of all social functions to either
fard ayn, a duty incumbent on every individual, or fard kifayah, a duty incumbent on
only so many as were required to fulfill the function – though until the function was
fulfilled, potentially incumbent on anyone.’’42
This is a crucial concept that can be used to understand the Islamic model of jihad and
the post-2011 dynamics in Libya, particularly the basis by which social forces are
mobilized during conflict, which will be looked at later. Islamic notions of legitimacy
and sovereignty are closer to the Hegelian than the Weberian understanding, in that it
is based more on moral and ideological factors than legitimacy based on force, and
this is what existed in Libya historically.43
The review of the literature suggests a paradox: did the European colonial expansion
and dominance of the 18th-20th century impose, by force, institutions and notions of
legitimacy and state that were essentially different, if not alien, to the existing systems
of legitimacy and authority in the region? And if so were they able to do so because
indigenous systems were in decline relative to the European powers? Furthermore, the
international system required mediated states to create the veneer of modern state
institutions that covered, often forcefully, a mostly pre-modern society, which
explains the prevalence of authoritarian regimes in the region who are able to create
this control mechanism. Moreover, authoritarianism/absolutism rather than the
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42 ibid p146
43 Joffé, G, (1996) Reflections on the role of the Sanusi in the central Sahara, The Journal of North
African Studies, 1:1, 25-41
; Abu Ishaq alShatibi, Al-Muwafaqaat fi Usool al-Sharia; Ibn Taymiyaah al-Siyasa al-shar'iyya,
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democratic nation state has a historical precedent in the region, which will be looked
at below.
Ibn Khaldūn’s (1332-1406) work Kitāb al-ʻIbar or "Book of Lessons", (of which al-
Muqadimmah or The Prolegomena is what he is best known for as a separate work44)
underlies the importance of social cohesion/group solidarity or 'aabiyya as the basis
of the rulers’ community legitimacy.45 He describes the state of nature similar to what
Hobbes described centuries later, as requiring a unified ruler or “(natural) royal
authority’’ to avoid inevitable hostilities that would lead to the ‘’destruction of the
human species.’’46 In this sense he rejects anarchy or self-rule as inferior or
destructive.47 He describes the notion of sovereignty or ‘’(natural) royal authority’’ as
‘’a form of organization necessary to mankind’’48 and although he precedes Hobbes
and Weber by centuries, he describes a Weberian monopoly of force49 as a
requirement to gain natural royal authority.50
He goes on to state that authority of this kind usually deviates from ‘’what is right’’51
because it based purely on superiority and force, and therefore needs to be tethered by
reference to ordained political norms, either intellectual (secular) or religious. He
states that the notion of (political) royal authority is inferior to (religious) royal
authority, explaining that religion is the most powerful source of group solidarity, and
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44 Kitāb al-ʻIbar wa-Dīwān al-Mubtadaʼ wa-l-Khabar fī Taʼrīkh al-ʻArab wa-l-Barbar wa-Man
ʻĀarahum min Dhawī ash-Shaʼn al-Akbār "Book of Lessons, Record of Beginnings and Events in the
History of the Arabs and the Berbers and Their Powerful Contemporaries")
45 Ibn Khaldūn. 1958 The Muqaddimah : An introduction to history. Translated from the Arabic by
Franz Rosenthal. 3 vols. New York: Princeton.
46 p252
47 ibid
48 ibid p256
49 Ibid p256
50 ibid
51 ibid p256
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royal authority is based on superiority which is based in turn on the extent of group
solidarity. .52
During his time, the analysis is applied to the notion of the caliphate or imamate as
the representative (Kh-l-f) of the Prophet (the source of religious law)53. This mode of
authority is not limited just to territory; the caliphate is pan-Islamic and is responsible
for the entire Muslim community. The social contract is thus based on the pledge of
allegiance, or bay’ah of the people to the ruler, an explicit agreement with
commitments attached to it.
The decline of Pan Islamism
The decline of the Ottoman Empire as the official umbrella for a pan-Islamic identity
and governance model led to the loss of a unifying ethic to bind factions and
communities into larger political entities. The region thus began searching for an
alternative identity in its confrontation with a more advanced Western Civilization
who had manufactured new states out of the Ottoman remnants.54 This manifested
itself in Arab Nationalism/Socialism, regionally distinct Islamic identities and
imitative parliamentary democracy, all of which have failed or are currently failing,
leading to what many commentators believe to the possible collapse of the Arab
nation state. This decline in formal institutionalized Islamic and Arab identity to
challenge Western hegemony led to the rise of informal covert resistance in the form
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52 Ibid p256; Qur’an 24:40
53 ibid pp256-257
54 Hourani, A. (1983). Arabic thought in the liberal age, 1798-1939. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire:
Cambridge University Press.
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of militant Islamic fundamentalism, which also seeks to destroy the post Ottoman
status quo in the region and return to a pan Islamic vision of governance and
legitimacy.
Can Libya be considered a State?
This section sought to analyse the foundational ideas underlying the conception of the
nation state and ruling authority in general and its applicability to the Middle East and
Libya specifically. It concludes that the concept and institutions of a modern nation
state, as a European construct resulting from the ‘’Great Western Transmutation’’
between 1600-1800, was imposed on the region rather than organically developed,
and thus does not represent the region’s socio-economic and cultural reality. The
industrial capitalist transformation that led to the necessity of ‘’technicalized’’
rational legal institutions of governance did not and still has not occurred in places
like Libya, and therefore these institutions and concepts rest on an artificially imposed
foundation, requiring Libya to create a veneer of modern institutions in order to
engage with the Capitalist dominated Global market and the Westphalian international
relations system.
The reality at the micro level was more attuned to localized social and religious
notions of legitimacy, and often resisted impersonal bureaucratization in favour of
traditional kinship based authority. This fragmented reality often needed to be
repressed by force in order to present a unified front in the international system,
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explaining the prevalence of authoritarian regimes and their policies in the region, this
will be discussed in the next section.
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Chapter 2: Statelessness and Social Forces in Libya's past
This section will seek to explore the notion that prior to Libyan Independence in 1951,
the central state was not able to extend its full authority, or gain unmediated
monopoly on the use of force in Libya. Rather, legitimacy and authority remained
traditional and highly localized in nature, and each area in Libya had its own social
structures that negotiated a semi-autonomous relationship with the Centre in return for
recognition, maintaining their own semi-independent military, economic, political and
social structures. The current image of statelessness is based on the legacy of this
recent period.
Statelessness in Libya
John Davis’s 1987 work Libyan Politics, Tribe and Revolution articulates the need to
understand Libya as an exceptional case, rather than ‘’a deviant, unpredictable and
inferior version of a Western State’’.55 He understands Libya as the unique
combination of five elements: ‘’revolution; petroleum (hydrocarbon society); a
colonial history; a puritanical version of Islam; and an image of statelessness.’’56
Davis’s most interesting contribution to the literature is his analysis of the notion of
statelessness that is ‘’endemic’’57 in Libyan society, a concept that will be used
throughout this thesis. He describes statelessness as an ‘image’ of freedom and
individual sovereignty, which he links to concepts of freedom, fraternal solidarity,
absence of hierarchy and distrust or rejection of authority inherent in desert life. This
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
55 Davis, J. (1988). Libyan politics: Tribe and revolution : an account of the Zuwaya and their
government. Berkeley: University of California Press.
56 ibid 246
57 ibid p40
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is bound in a particular and partial kinship system prevalent in Libya historically, and
amplified by the experience of colonial resistance. 58
He describes Al-Qadhafi’s rhetoric of statelessness as based on a concept inherent in
Libyan society, rather than one he imposed artificially.
Anderson suggests that statelessness was largely a result of the legacy of the colonial
period and the uniquely destructive impulses of Italian Fascist Colonialism.59 George
Joffe has an alternate view. He rejects the notion that statelessness was a result of an
Ottoman or colonial legacy and suggests that al-Qadhafi imposed it on society.60 Jason
Pack suggests that British involvement in Libya also entrenched Libyan notions of
statelessness by reinforcing tribalized and personalized institutions through their
support of the Sanussiyah.61 Davis outlines three characteristics of Libyan society that
explain why the image of statelessness is still powerful: the recentness of the colonial
resistance and the freedom from authority associated with it;62 the recent urbanization
of the population; and the familiarity between the image of the stateless past and Al-
Qadhafi’s rhetoric of individual sovereignty, statelessness and abolishing
representation inherent in his ideology, ‘The Third Universal Theory”.63
Individual sovereignty is a concept that is sometimes seen as synonymous with free
will and voluntary association; within the framework of a stateless society it
essentially means self-governance and the absence of the inconveniences of the state.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
58 ibid, p40; p52
59 Anderson, L (1986)
60 Joffé, G. (January 01, 2005). Libya's Saharan identity. The Journal of North African Studies . , 10,
605-617.
61 Pack, J (2012), 2011 Libyan uprisings p10…..
62 Davis, J(1988) p44 uses the term al-hukuma al Arabiya, or peoples government/ no government, to
describe the Libyan image of past freedom and heroism.
63 Davis, J (1988) p44; Al-Qadhafi green book pt1; Al-Qadhafi and Jouve, My Vision (2005)
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As will be shown in the next section, Libyan history pre 1951 independence is littered
with examples of the central authorities failure to extend central control outside of the
main cities, leaving society to organize naturally according to kinship ties. This
transformed the tribe into a socio-political-economic and military organization64 that
resisted state intervention in its affairs, but often negotiated agreements of autonomy
in return for recognition of central authority.
These social forces and their alliances were entrenched during internal conflicts in the
19th and 20th centuries and also as a result of the colonial resistance. The most detailed
studies of these social forces are by Libyan researchers and local Oral history, which
are difficult to access. The authors that provide the most accessible research on this
theme are Ali Ahmida, Faraj Najem, Lisa Anderson, Muhammad Bazama, Taher al-
Zawi and Ibn Ghalbun.
This section will begin by describing roughly who these forces were, how they were
organized, and how the period of colonialism entrenched them as entities and
alliances, leaving a lasting legacy. It will then move on to show how central state
institutions past and present have been forced to form mediated relationships, or grant
partial autonomy to the various social forces in Libya in order to establish its control.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
64 Ahmida (1994), A. A. (). The making of Modern Libya; State formation, colonisation, and Resistance,
1830-1932. Albany : State University of New York Press.
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Governing Libya
A thorough understanding of Libya’s tribal confederations, conflicts and networks has
historically always provided a basis for the central authority’s ability to govern the
country. It helps understand the reasons and nature of colonial resistance and
collaboration, the political differences of the post World War II period, the social base
of King Idris Sanussi’s rise to power in 1951 and Al-Qadhafi’s successful
maintenance of power for 42 years. The historical dynamics, conflicts and agreements
between these confederations over land, trade and power would subsequently
resurface post 2011. It is thus important to define the types of social forces that have
existed throughout history, and analyse their relationship with the Centre and each
other.
Libya has a history of limited government control in the hinterlands and periphery,
and had to rule indirectly through the mediation of local elites.65 In most cases, the
central authority did not have the administrative and logistical ability to govern
territories directly. If they were to send state agents, those agents did not have the
power to force local compliance, and the central authority didn’t have the logistical
ability to monitor their bureaucratic and military agents, risking a loss of control over
their activities.66 This also reduced the incentive to destroy local forces, as the
administrative ability to replace them as local service providers was weak or non-
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
65 Pack, J. (2013). The 2011 Libyan uprisings and the struggle for the post-Qadhafi future. New York,
NY: Palgrave Macmillan.; Waldner (1999); Tilly (1975); See Webers conception of mediatized states
in Economy and Society
66 Waldner (1999)
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existent.67 This meant that the central authority had to negotiate settlements that gave
local leaders autonomy in return for their tacit recognition of central sovereignty.68
This was the case for the Tripoli-based Ottoman and Italian authorities, in terms of
their control over the hinterlands in Libya,69 as well as the 1951 Monarchy, the Al-
Qadhafi regime and the present day post revolutionary authorities. To begin, it is
useful to define who these forces were and how they were organized.
Tribes and tribal confederations
The formation of Sufuf (plural of Suff), or tribal confederations was based on a
combination of economic and social factors, the ‘Suff’ (singular) or confederation is
made up of a number of tribes, which in turn is made up of clans (Lehma) which is
made up of a number of families. “These sufuf provided tribes and peasants with a
flexible political organization that could resist heavy taxes, foreign invasions or
threats from other tribes’’.70 Tribes usually refer to groups whose social cohesion is
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
67 Weber, Economy and Society, 1055: ’The patrimonial ruler cannot always dare to destroy these
autonomous local patrimonial powers. Some Roman emperors, Nero, for example, went far in wiping
out private large landowners, especially in Africa. However, if the ruler intends to eliminate the
autonomous konoratiores, he must have an administrative organization of his own which can replace
them with approximately the same authority over the Ideal population. Otherwise a new stratum of
konoratiores comes into being with similar pretensions the new lease- holders or landowners who
take the place of their native predecessors. ‘’
68 C.E. Pennell, Political loyalty and the central government in pre-colonial Libya in E.G.H Joffe and
K.S Mclachlan
69 ibid p2
70 Ahmida (1994) p51
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based on shared bloodline and tradition.71 These structures existed in Libya with
Berber tribes prior to Arabization, but because of the complex historical developments
and the inter marriage and relations between Arab and non-Arab tribes and clans,
some tribes do not all share the same characteristics.
The social origins and economic practices of these tribes mostly determine the make
up of the confederation. For example the Coastal confederation (Suff al-Bahar), which
was more closely associated with the central authorities, was made up of social
structures from the coastal towns of Tripolitania, namely Misrata, Khoms, Zliten, the
oases of Sukhana, and the tribes of Fir’jan, Megarha, Abadalla and Ma’adan, where
the most influential social structures were sedentary, Arabized Amazigh and
Köloğlized groups. Köloğlization refers to both the process of mixing between local
Arab/Berber tribes with the Ottoman Janissary class or those elements of North
African society who joined the Janissaries during Ottoman rule and hence became
Turkified.72 The coastal alliance was traditionally in conflict with the Interior tribal
confederation (Al-Suff al-Fuwqy), which paid taxes to the state but was more
independent. This was made up of the tribes of Awlad Sulayman, Qadhadhfa,
Warfalla, Magharba and the oases of Hun and Waddan;73 these were also a mix of
Ashraf (claim descent from the Prophet Muhammad), Arab Bedouin (trace their roots
to Banu Hilal or Banu Sulaym) or a mix of different Arab and Berber rooted
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
71 Cole, P., Mangan, F., & United States Institute of Peace,. (2016). Tribe, security, justice, and peace
in Libya today. Washington, DC : United States Institute of Peace,
72 Najem (2004) p120; referring to the Karaghla, Bazama states "they make up the majority of the
tribes in Misräta. Over the years, they acquired the requisites that made them part of the tribal society
as a result of relationship by marriages and neighborhood. They are part of the tribal system now",
Kamali, Watha'iq `an Nihäyat al- `Ahd al-Qaramänalli, tr. by M. Bazama, (F. N) pp 25-26 in Najem
p124
73 Ahmida p53
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families.74 Conflict between Arab Bedouin and non Bedouin is also a recurring theme
throught Libya’s history and can be used to analyse the post 2011 conflicts.
There is also the Suff of Zintan, Rijban, Mahamid, Gdayrat and Sab’a that was
traditionally in conflict with the Suff of Awlad bu’Sayf, Mashashiya and Jadu. In the
areas closer to Tunisia, the Suffs of Yussuf and Shadad were active.75 In Cyraneica,
the Sa'ädi tribes, which trace their origin to Banu Sulaym76, are dominant and are split
into three tribal groups; the Haräbi, the Jabärna77 and the Shiyäbin. While there are
twenty-four Muräbitin78 tribes, the largest being the zuwayya, these were mainly
clients of the Sa'ädi, but played an influential role in events in the east of Libya.
The Sanussi movement was historically more closely associated with the tribes of
Cyreneica (particularly the Zuwayya) and Fezzan, providing education, conflict
mediation, and trade governance to the tribes in the surrounding areas.79 Their
legitimacy was traditional and Islamic in nature, as analysed by Joffe.80 The presence
of the Sanussi was less prevalent in Tripolitania, which had its own religious and
urban notables closer to the Ottoman central authorities with views that were resistant
to the Sanussi. This, as well as what Cyrenaicans viewed as the weak resistance of
urban Tripolitanians to the Italian colonial authorities, would mar relations between
the two regions in the post World War II period.81
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
74 Najem p37
75 Ahmida (1994) p53
76 the Sa'idi were divided into two main branches, the Jibarna and the Haribi,
77 Jabärna consist of al-`Awägir, al-Maghärba, al-Jawäzi, al-Ri"bät and al-Mjäbra;
al-Haräbi consists of al-'Ibidät, al-Hasa, al-Drusa, Awläd Fäyd, Awläd Hamad, al-Brä' asa,.
78 Najem, F (2004)
79 Ahmida (1994); thesis
80 Joffé, G, (1996) Reflections on the role of the Sanusi in the central Sahara, The Journal of North
African Studies, 1:1, 25-41
81 Vandewalle p44; Pelt chapter 2
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Examples of this can be seen in the struggle of the Ottomans and the Qaramanlis to
control the Fezzan, Green Mountains, Nafusa Mountains and Cyrenaica regions.82
These efforts were mostly resisted by the tribes in practice, and did not create a
traditional monopoly on the use of force for the central authorities, as the tribes in the
periphery, particularly Cyrenaica, remained heavily armed throughout the 19th and
into the 20th century.83
George Joffé’s article, Reflections on the role of the Sanusi in the central Sahara, The
Journal of North African Studies, (1996) 1:1, 25-41, also alludes to the same point
when describing the Sanussiyah movements mode of governance and legitimacy in
the hinterlands of Libya, which he describes as being based primarily on Islamic
constitutional theory, and communal rather than territorial sovereignty rooted in
‘’specific local political circumstances.’’84 Joffe adds that although it did not meet all
the conditions of the 1933 Montevideo convention85, he found that it did actually
satisfy both Weberian notions of monopoly on legitimate violence, but crucially
through mediation not coercion,86 as well as Hegelian definitions of the ‘actuality of
the ethical idea of the state’.87 The Sanussiyah collected taxation in the form of zakat,
provided basic services and enforced Islamic social and legal practice for the
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
82 Anderson p72
83 Ahmida (1994) () p74, p54
84 George Joffé (1996) Reflections on the role of the Sanusi in the central
Sahara, The Journal of North African Studies, 1:1, 25-41
85 '(a)a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into
relations with other States' (Montevideo Convention 1933) in George Joffé (1996) Reflections on the
role of the Sanusi in the central
Sahara, The Journal of North African Studies, 1:1, 25-41
86 For more on the mediated state see Waldner 1998
87 Ibid; Weber, Max (2015/1919). "Politics as Vocation" in Weber's Rationalism. Edited and
Translated by Tony Waters and Dagmar Waters, pp. 129198;
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inhabitants around its 146 zawiyahs,88 while tenuously acknowledging, but in rare
cases clashing with, the Ottoman central authority.
Colonial resistance
The local resistance and collaboration to Italian colonization was based fundamentally
on previous alliances and enmities of the above-mentioned tribal confederations and
the notables that led them. The failure of the Ottoman and Qaramanli leadership to
create sustainable institutions and their avoidance of creating a unified Libyan identity
meant that by the time the Italians arrived in Libya, many of the tribes were semi
independent entities with their own local legitimacy to ‘govern’ their traditional areas
of hegemony. Hence the resistance against the Italians was organized and supported
initially by the Ottoman Empire, supporting local states, the Sanussi state, the
Tripolitanian Republic and tribal confederations that operated as local states. The lack
of a common vision or identity led to infighting, which was encouraged and
manipulated by the Italians, helping in the defeat of the resistance in 1934.
As a result of the period of Italian conquest, pacification and rule from 1911-1943, it
is estimated that a third of the population of Cyrenaica died, and more than a hundred
thousand people were moved to concentration camps, many of whom did not survive.
The Italians marginalized Libyans from power, the institutions of governance and
even education. The turmoil from 1911 -1922 saw the rise of numerous Libyan
attempts at self rule, mainly due to Italian failure to penetrate the hinterland and
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88 Evans-Pritchard, E. (1954). The Sanusi of Cyrenaica. London: Oxford University Press.
Ahmida (1994),
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Ottoman support to the Libyan resistance. This included self-declared governments in
Misrata, the Western Mountains, Tarhuna and Fezzan.89 In 1918, the Tripolitanian
Republic was formed.90This comprised a council of four leading notables91 alongside a
parliament, a judicial council, a police force and an army. Anderson suggests rightly
that the reason a council was formed was because of their inability to agree on an
individual as head of state92, which is remarkably similar to the current situation in
Libya with the Presidential Council, an executive body of nine people that took power
in Libya in March 2016.
The Italian colonial authorities, particularly during the ‘liberal’ politica dei capi
period from 1911-1922, sought to mediate with local forces, and manipulate the
internal factionalism and in fighting inherent at the time. For example, in Tripolitania,
the urban merchant families attached to the Banco di Roma assisted the Italians in
their occupation and governance of key towns.93 Another example includes the
agreement of Akramah in 1917 recognizing Idris al-Sanussi’s de-facto authority in
Cyrenaica within overall Italian territorial sovereignty, granting him a monthly
stipend and unsuccessfully attempting to use him to disarm the eastern tribal forces.94
On the post World War II period, Baldinetti explores Libya’s artificiality as a colonial
construct and later states that the external political forces in play were more
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
89 Ahmida (1994), A
90 Al-Zawi, -T. (1963). [Tarikh al-fath al-Arabi fi Libya]. Tripoli: publisher not identified.
; Al-Magariaf, M. Y. (2014). Libya: From constitutional legitimacy to revolutionary legitimacy (from
constitutional monarchy to jamahiriyya system); Anderson (1986)
91 Ramadhan al swehli for Misrata, Ahmed Murayid for Tarhuna, AbdlNabi belkhayr for Werfella and
Sulayman al Baruni for the Western Mountains
92 Anderson, L in Joffé, G., & McLachlan, K. S. (1982). Social & economic development of Libya.
Wisbech: Middle East & North African Studies press.
p51
93 Ahmida (1994) ); Anderson 1986
94 The agreement of Akramah 12th April 1917; Evans Pritchard; Ahmida (1994) p123
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influential than the internal, utilizing both Hobsbawn’s and Anderson’s
conceptualization of national identity formation.95 She concludes however, that the
failure of Libya as an ‘’imagined community’’ was mainly due to regionalism, and
differing views between the elites and social structures of the three regions.96
’The advent of independence unified Libya’s three provinces but failed to forge a
deep rooted sense of national identity as did the bitter war of independence in Algeria.
For the most part, Libyans continued to think of themselves as Tripolitanian,
Cyranaican or Fezzanes, not as Libyans.’’97
Localized legitimacy
These patterns of limited state control, the civil war of the early 19th century, and the
anti-colonial resistance cemented tribal alliances and the image of statelessness
already present in the Libyan mind. By the end of World War II the tribe was already
a socio-economic and political organization.98
This section has thus demonstrated that historically, Libya was a fragmented and
semi-stateless society with tenuous and often resistant relationships with central
authorities. The society, particularly outside the main cities, was organized according
to local community interests and social structures unique to that community, be they
tribe, family or locality, and the legitimacy was thus highly localized rather than
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95 Hobsbawm (1993); Anderson, L (1986)
96 ibid p143
97 Robert Bruce St John, Qaddafi’s World Design:Libyan Foreign Policy, 1969-1987, (London: Saqi
Books, 1987), p. 33 quoted in Amal al-Obeidi, Political Culture in Libya (Surrey: Curzon, 2001)
98 Ahmida (1994) p15
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national. The balance of power, grievances and alliances created during this time were
entrenched or manipulated by the British Military Administration, the Sanussi
Monarchy and the Al-Qadhafi regime, and then resurfaced post 2011, which is why it
is crucial to understand them as the basis for the incoherence between the three
regions of Libya. And the extent to which, Libya’s primordial cleavages remained
nested under the veneer of modern state structure, ready to resurface when Qadhafian
repression was removed.
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Chapter 3: Al-Qadhafi’s Rule: Patronage, Rentierism and Manipulation
Statelessness and the Third Universal Theory
Muammar al-Qadhafi came from a poor Bedouin background, therefore his vision of
a stateless state can be seen as a direct result of the stateless image embedded in his
nomadic desert lifestyle and upbringing as a child.99 Al-Qadhafi, among many of his
generation, was heavily influenced and inspired by Jamal Abdul Nasser through Arab
Nationalist leaning Egyptian teachers in Libyan schools, and instructed recruits to his
group to read both Nasser’s and al-urī’s work. This inspired al-Qadhafi’s political
theory, the Third Universal Theory100, which was particularly designed as the
rejection of both Capitalism and Communism, and was a combination of Islamic
Socialism, Arab Nationalism and direct democracy. In theory it was heavily
influenced by the image of statelessness, individual sovereignty and rejection of
government institutions inherent in Badawa (nomad) culture.
His theories are similar to anarchism or anarcho-communism in theory, in that he
advocated abolishing the state, capitalism, wage labour (‘’partners, not wage
earners’’101), and private property (while retaining respect for personal property)102.
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99 Bruce St. John 2012, p. 135
100 Qadhafi, 1976
101 Al-Qadhafi, The Green Book
102 "The revolution abolishes private ownership of the means of production and distribution, and with it
goes capitalistic business. Personal possession remains only in the things you use. Thus, your watch is
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He attempted to create direct democracy through the indirectly elected Basic and
General Peoples Congresses103, and a horizontal network of voluntary associations
and workers' councils (peoples committees) with production and consumption104 and
common ownership of the means of production105. The attempt to abolish the
intermediation between citizen and the polity, (‘’representation is fraud!’’106) and the
attempt to abolish what he describes as wage slavery brought it closer to anarcho-
syndicalism towards the mid 1980’s. The issue is that a stateless anti-bureaucratic
tendency is not conducive to the creation of the type of institutions needed to extract
and export natural resources.
"Management becomes popular, control becomes popular, and the old definition of
democracy as 'control of people over the government' is replaced by its new definition
as 'the people's control over itself'."107
Al-Qadhafi’s ideas are certainly anti-statist108 in theory, but in practice he
implemented a system quite different from his stateless vision, in fact the state
became totalitarian in that it attempted to regulate every aspect of public and private
life.109 He was also authoritarian in the traditional sense110, in that he highly
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your own, but the watch factory belongs to the people." Alexander Berkman. "What Is Communist
Anarchism?"
103 see appendix ; Al-Qadhafi, The Green Book Pt One
104 Fabbri, Luigi. "Anarchism and Communism." Northeastern Anarchist #4. 1922
105 From Politics Past to Politics Future: An Integrated Analysis of Current and Emergent Paradigms
Alan James Mayne Published 1999 Greenwood Publishing Group
106 Muammar al-Qadhafial-QadhafiAl-Qadhafi, The Green Book, Part One, The solution of the
problem of Democracy, The authority of the people
107 ibid
108 The opposition of state intervention into personal, social and economic affairs. See Gallaher,
Carolyn; Dahlman, Carl T.; Gilmartin, Mary; Mountz, Alison; Shirlow, Peter (2009). Key Concepts in
Political Geography. London: SAGE. p. 392
109 Conquest, Robert (1999). Reflections on a Ravaged Century. p. 74
110 "in which the ruling authority (generally a single person) is maintained in power through a
combination of appeals to traditional legitimacy, patron-client ties and repression, which is carried out
by an apparatus bound to the ruling authority through personal loyalties" Mark J. Gasiorowski, The
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centralized political power, legitimacy and sovereignty in himself personally. He
created temporary informal institutions to actually implement policy, while using the
formal institutions merely to distribute oil wealth to the citizens through employment
in the public sector. He advocated direct democracy through the Popular Congress
system, but restricted them from discussing issues deemed vital to the regime. These
contradictions between theory and practice, statelessness and totalitarianism, formal
and informal, popular participation and simultaneous exclusion, created a highly
depoliticized and demoralized population, producing a survival ethic in the population
in which;
‘’The coping mechanism has been to live within norms of the system while attempting
to maximize individual rent seeking extended further the ambiguities, uncertainty,
and outright distrust of the notion of statehood and of a political community among
Libyans.’’111
In this sense, al-Qadhafi exacerbated rather than created contradictions already
inherent in society. His contradictions were those between the image of statelessness
inherent in his libertarian anarchist ideology and the reality of a totalitarian system.
The distrust and resentment of authority were already internalized in the ‘Libyan
Personality’ 112 historically.
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Political Regimes Project, in On Measuring Democracy: Its Consequences and Concomitants (ed. Alex
Inketes), 2006, p. 110-11.
111 Ibid pp 134-136
112 Moncef Winas ‘al-shakhsiya al-Leebiya’ (The Libyan personality), he describes the Libyan
personality as being a tripartite of three factors: tribe, plunder and domination
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By 2011 the condition within society was reminiscent of Alexei Yurchak’s concept of
Soviet hyper normalization113, ‘’when everyone knew the system was failing but no
one could imagine any alternative to the status quo, and politicians and citizens were
resigned to maintaining a pretence of a functioning society.114
Social forces and the monopoly on force
The fragmentation of Libyan society required al-Qadhafi to manipulate tribal politics,
informal networks and create multiple parallel security and military institutions
directly answerable to him in order for him to create an indirect and mediated form of
monopoly on the use of force. He controlled this monopoly personally rather than
institutionally, which as shown, is common to Libyan history and is due to the
strength, semi-independent legacy and image of statelessness inherent in the various
social forces that make up the country.
King Idris used similar policies of mediation in entrenching his local support.
Although the presence of US and UK military bases reduced the risk of civil conflict,
he had an inherent distrust in the Tripolitanian urban notables who were heavily
represented in the Government, the military institution, and his own family
members115,who he felt were potential threats to his power. This was magnified by the
rise of Arab Nationalism and Nasserism, and the coups occurring globally at that time.
In fact, several internal factions in the Libyan military, including al-Qadhafi’s group,
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113 Alexei Yurchak (2006). Everything was Forever, Until it was No More: The Last Soviet Generation.
Princeton University Press.
114 Adam Curtis (16 October 2016). With documentary film-maker Adam Curtis. Interview with Jarvis
Cocker. Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service. BBC Radio 6 Music. London. Retrieved 17 October 2016;
Neringa Klumbyte; Gulnaz Sharafutdinova (2012). Soviet Society in the Era of Late Socialism, 1964
1985. Lexington Books. p. 213.
115 particularly after the assassination of al-shelhi, see bashir al sunni al muntasir
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were allegedly planning coups.116 For these reasons, among others, Idris created a
parallel military entity, the Cyrenaica Defence Forces, out of remnants of the anti-
Italian Sanussi army, to ‘’balance and check the power of the regular army’’.117 This
entity was primarily composed of tribal forces loyal to the Sanussis, with
‘’recruitment based on kinship solidarity, that served directly under the discretion of
the king.’’ 118It was larger and better equipped than the regular army, ‘’which was
primarily seen as a mechanism to provide employment.’’119
Vandewalle importantly describes the post 1951 Monarchy as showing
’unwillingness or fear of creating nationwide institutions that could develop
corporate interests extended to the kingdom’s military establishment. In an important
sense, Idris’s Libya did not even hold a monopoly on the use of force-the most basic
Weberian trait of the state,’’120 although it is clear that the King held a mediated form
of monopoly on force. The monarchical period presented the first national effort at
state building, although the policies of the period are criticized by Fathaly and Palmer,
al-Muntasir, Davis, Joffe, Anderson and Ahmaida as anachronistic and infused with
Cyrenaican bias and tribalism.121
Many believe that Al-Qadhafi’s regime used sheer brutality to gain unmediated
monopoly on the use of force; in fact, al-Qadhafi deeply understood the social balance
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
116 zawiyah, Iraq and ….
117 Vandewalle 1998 p56
118 ibid
119 ibid
120 Vandewalle p56
121 Muntasir, davis, joffe, Anderson, Ahmida (1994) (1994)
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of power and took it into account when planning the 1969 coup. His was a mediated
state that managed and manipulated these social forces throughout his rule.
The beginning of Al-Qadhafi’s rule saw an attempt to undermine the tribal system,
which he accused of being part of the reactionary forces in society holding back
progress. He redrew administrative boundaries to cut through existing tribal
boundaries, creating issues over land ownership and governance that are relevant to
this day. As time progressed, it became clear that his attempts to create ‘’structural
solutions for behavioural problems’’122 by drawing Libyans into political life through
the Arab Socialist Union and the 1973 Popular Revolution had failed, namely because
both were not deeply socially grounded and threatened existing tribal positions.123 By
the end of the 1970’s ‘’Al-Qadhafi argued that rational association of people was less
valuable, less stable, intrinsically less just than association on natural basis; and by
‘natural’ he meant ties of descent and kinship.’’124 The appointment into
administrative or political committees became along tribal lines.125 This particularly
increased with the formation in 1993 of the Social People’s Leadership
Committees.126 The RCC also had the view that politics was dominated by a
Tripolitanian urban elite and Cyrenaican tribes centred around the king, whom al-
Qadhafi subsequently marginalized, accusing them of collaborating with Italian
colonialists and ‘’serving British and American imperialism after independence’’127,
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
122 Fathaly and Palmer p235-240 in Joffe
123 ibid
124 Davis, 1988; p177
125 Hanspeter Mattes; Omar Fathaly
126 al-Obeidi, A, Political Culture in Libya (Surrey: Curzon, 2001)
127 Hanspetter Mattes, Formal and informal authority in Libya since 1969 in Vandewalle , 2008, Libya
since 1969
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and attempted to move to a new structure of the ‘’masses’’128 empowering ‘’the sons
of the desert, the villages, the wide land’’.129
From 1969-1975, the members of the RCC and the Free Officers Movement began to
be slowly marginalized by Al-Qadhafi after a series of attempted coups.130 In 1975
after a thwarted coup, he began reorganizing his tribal alliances according to historic
precedents.. What is more interesting and relatively unrecorded is the arming of the
tribes allied to Al-Qadhafi outside the scope of the military institution or the informal
or revolutionary military structures.131 This fact is almost completely missing from
much of the literature on Libya, and is mostly recorded through oral history. This
crucial development explains why these tribal structures existed underneath the
veneer of the state, only to re-emerge after Qadhafi’s ouster.
Although tribal members held positions in all layers of the formal and informal
apparatus of the state, tribesmen were also armed as part of the regular army and the
security units formed in Sirte and other localities, the Republican and Revolutionary
Guards, the Revolutionary Committees, the Security Brigades and the Peoples Militia.
However, outside of the above named structures, individual members of tribes were
also armed, particularly those allied to al-Qadhafi. Members of the Interior Suff,
particularly the Qadhadhfa and the Warfalla were armed under the management of
Al-Qadhafi’s kinsmen.132 This example shows that the social reality, historical
alliances and enmities between social forces that have been developing for hundreds
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
128 ibid
129 Proclamation of the Revolution on 1st September 1969
130 David Yallop To the Ends of the Earth
131 Interview with former Revolutionary Committee member
132 ibid
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of years, and have not effectively been replaced by the type of institutions associated
with a modern state.
Al-Qadhafi simultaneously created highly decentralized systems of ‘Jamihiri’ or
popular governance133 based on his Third Universal Theory, through the Basic
Peoples Congresses, Basic Peoples Committees, General Peoples Committees and the
General Peoples Congresses, but did not allow them to make decisions or debate on
issues the regime ‘’judged crucial to its survival’’134 such as the security, military,
intelligence, and revolutionary sectors, many strategic foreign policy issues135 as well
as the chief source of the regimes income: the petroleum sector and its income.136 In
this sense, coercion, capital and participation in the international Westphalian system
appear to be the foundation of the regime’s sovereignty, and were not institutionally
controlled in the way known to modern unmediated states, rather they were highly
centralized and personally controlled by al-Qadhafi himself.
Rentierism
This section will focus on the impact of hydrocarbon income on the structure of State
and Society in Libya, arguing that it was the primary foundation of Al-Qadhafi’s
individualized sovereignty. It will show how Al-Qadhafi utilized hydrocarbon income
to create an implicit social contract of patronage and dependency by forming State
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
133; Vandewalle 1998 p96
134 ibid
135 Davis 1988
136 ibid; Vandewalle 1998
!
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institutions whose main purpose was to distribute oil money to the citizen through
‘jobs’ in the public sector. And how he, personally, was the guarantor of stability for
this structurally distorted system. It will explore the extent that these structural
distortions created the environment that lead to the revolution in 2011, and how the
revolution removed Al-Qadhafi as the fundamental stabilizer of the system, making it
a battle space for competing social forces fighting over control of the old patronage
system.
Dirk Vandewalle’s numerous works on Libya are grounded in his unprecedented
access inside Libya giving him a unique depth of information on the the post 1969
period. He looks at the impact of Al-Qadhafi’s ideology on policy and state building,
with a particular focus on the Libyan states’ management of oil income and the
subsequent creation of rentierist distributive institutions and a distorted social contract
of patronage and dependency. This builds also on John Davis’s analysis of Libya as a
hydrocarbon society.137 Vandewalle builds on theories of political economy to explore
the structural distortions caused in Libya when a ruler is freed from the burden of
taxation by sudden capital inflows, and how this, in combination with ‘’a vision of
statelessness cloaked in nostalgia for times when family and tribe provided solidarity
and egalitarianism’’138 distorted the incentive to create a viable political community,
equitable social contract or extractive institutions associated with the modern
extractive nation state.139 Vandewalle’s notion of a distributive state builds on the
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
137 Davis,j (1988)
138 Vandewalle (1998)
139 ibid
!
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rentier state theories of Hossein Mahdavy,140 Hazem Al Beblawi and Giacomo
Luciani141 who describe four characteristics of a rentier state:
‘’· Rent situations predominate. (the economic activity of the state)
· The economy relies on a substantial external rent – and therefore does not require a
strong domestic productive sector.
· Only a small proportion of the working population is actually involved in the
generation of the rent.
· Perhaps most importantly, the state’s government is the principal recipient of the
external rent ‘’142
Vandewalle’s distributive state describes a State whose institutions emerge, not to
extract wealth, but merely to spend it, mainly on buying the loyalty of elites and
indeed the citizens as part of a social contract exchanging political empowerment for
wealth143, similar to Waldner’s notion of a mediated state.144
Hydrocarbon exports represent around 99% of Libyan government revenues, 95% of
export revenues and 80% of GDP.145 The central budget was distributed to the
population through institutions whose primary purpose became the distribution of oil
income to the citizen as part of an implicit Social Contract, exploited by Al-Qadhafi
for political legitimacy, stability and control. The resource curse146 of large amounts
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
140 Hossein Mahdavy, "The Pattern and Problems of Economic Development in Rentier States: The
Case of Iran", in Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East, ed. M.A. Cook (Oxford University
Press, Oxford 1970)
141 Beblawi, Hazem Al and Giacomo Luciani, 1990, The Rentier State in the Arab World, in Luciani, G.,
The Arab State, London, Routledge
142 ibid pp87-88
143 Vandewalle p8;
144 Waldner (1999)
145 2016 index of economic freedom, http://www.heritage.org/index/country/libya
146 Natural Resource Governance Centre (2015), The Resource Curse:
!
47!
of oil money flowing into the central government budget has perverted the proper
social, economic, and political incentives required to promote and develop the
institutions of a modern state, in both public and private sectors, and creates new
incentives altogether for a relationship between the economic and the political
agencies of Libyan people. Entrapment (dependency on oil) then creates an
embedded structural imbalance with the State as the largest provider of wealth, and
the people as dependents. It is this structural imbalance that creates economic, social
and political distortions.
In modern productive economies, the ability to extract resources by the state, from the
produce of its people, led to two complementary developments: 1) the birth of
regulatory institutions (including fiscal, legal, information collection & processing
mechanisms) and 2) Democracy: demand for representation in return for taxation.147
In Libya this never happened. The wealth is monopolized by the state, and does not
need to be (extracted) from its people and their economic productivity, the result was
a gradual decay of institutional structures across the gamut of political &
socioeconomic life. Libya either felt no need, or proved unable to create the natural
incentives for private sector growth, employment and entrepreneurship.
In Rentier states such as Libya , the ruling elite face minimal pressures to specify
property rights or to maximize personal income. In fact, property was abolished as a
right altogether and assets of the old commercial class were expropriated in the
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Political and Economic Challenges of Natural Resource Wealth,
http://www.resourcegovernance.org/sites/default/files/nrgi_Resource-Curse.pdf; Davidson, A (2011),
Economists Diagnosis Libya With 'Resource Curse',
http://www.npr.org/2011/02/25/134048260/Libyas-Economy
147 Vandewalle 1998
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48!
1970’s148. Nor is there a need to collect or monitor internal taxes from citizens, or
worry about transaction costs, and needs only relatively few agents to run their
economies. In essence the rulers of rentier states feel less responsibility to the people
and are thus not accountable to them as they are able to acquire wealth without
popular participation, as the people are dependent on the ruling elites to disperse
wealth to them.149 Since change without the necessary transitional institutions is too
risky for the rulers, the incentive is to forego reform, in favor of stability.150 A vicious
cycle which if not broken, will see Libya adopt this old implicit social contract, as an
explicit, social contract for the future.
Based on the above framework, the structural imbalance that has distorted
employment in the economy as a whole, and the public, and private spheres of work
specifically, can be analyzed.
Structural Imbalance in Employment
Over the past four decades, Libya has relied on the government and on state
enterprises for employment creation. If initially this approach was successful in
creating ‘jobs’, in the last 10 to 15 years, rapid population growth and a youth ‘bulge’
in particular has made it impossible for the public sector to provide enough jobs to
keep the unemployment rate under control. Under 25’s in Libya make up around 50%
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
148 After the release of volume two of the "Green Book, The solution of the economic problem
(Socialism)", the private sector, the banking sector and property rights were distorted or abolished
149 Tilly (1990)
150 See Vandewalle 1998 for a detailed analysis of Al-Qadhafis numerous attempts at reform from the
1970s onwards
!
49!
of the population, and under 35’s makeup closer to 70%. Before the revolution Libya
was struggling with a youth unemployment rate of 36%, which has now risen.151
By the end of the 1950’s, reliance on foreign aid rose to 35% of Libya’s GNP, and the
State was becoming the largest employer in the country, with institutions created to
distribute the benefits of the rent down to the population.152 . Vandewalle suggested
that this was among the reasons of the weakness of the opposition of the State.153 The
discovery of oil in 1959 increased the states wealth, and required Libya to leave
behind the federal system in favor of an administrative unification of the three regions.
Vandewalle suggests that these new national bureaucracies ‘’provided ample
opportunities for the government to provide large scale patronage’’154
Interestingly, unemployment is defined as not only those who are not employed and
looking for work in Libya: in fact, many of those in employed in the public sector are
either not going to work, actively looking for work, or working informally elsewhere
at the same time, which contributes to the inefficiency and decay plaguing public
sector institutions.155 If inactive, unproductive employment in the public sector is
included, then the figure may be closer to 75%. Available data shows that the public
sector now accounts for more than 70% of the country’s workforce.156
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
151 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.MA.ZS?locations=LY
152 Vandewalle p47
153 ibid
154 Vandewalle 1998
155 Norbert Wimmer: Public Administration Reform: A Few Remarks on Libyan Case HRVATSKA
JAVNA UPRAVA, god. 9. (2009.), br. 2., str. 421442
156 ibid, ‘’Estimates indicate that the government employs up to 70% of all salaried Libyans in the 1.9
million-strong Libyan labour force’’,
!
50!
At the same time, the private sector has not been able to fill the gap given the wider
problems business faces in general in Libya. Additionally, corruption and a lack of
transparency in both the public and private sectors has hindered competition and
lowered efficiency, further complicating the ability of the formal private sector to
create stable and modern employment opportunities.157
To summarize, the oil income is centralized in the central budget, and then distributed
through the institutions to satisfy the citizen’s sense of entitlement to the oil wealth.
This sense of entitlement was tied to an occupation in the public sector, so, rather than
the performance of a function in return for a salary, the primary purpose of
employment in the public sector became the receipt of a de facto welfare payment to
which the citizen believes they are entitled. This was the key for the public buy in into
Al-Qadhafi’s social contract. For those at the senior level, employment in the public
sector with control of a budget represents economic empowerment, and allows them
to create client patron relationships with their informal networks. This kind of
rentierism led directly to the embedding of pre-existing primordial social structures
underneath the veneer of a modern state.
Totalitarian in practice, stateless in theory
It was demonstrated in the previous section that Libya at the time of independence in
1951 was a fragmented, semi stateless society where the hinterlands and areas outside
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
157 ibid
!
51!
of the main cities in particular were organized according to kinship and local interests.
Both King Idris and Muammar al-Qadhafi recognized this reality, but failed to
overcome and replace it with ‘modern’ institutions, because as shown in the first
section, what are called ‘modern’ institutions require a socio-political and economic
transformation that did not take place in Libya largely due to its hydrocarbon wealth
but also due to its weak institutionalization. Instead, they both created systems of
patronage through which they could appease this fundamental social reality. They
way in which they did this was to embed pre-existing social formations inside nascent
state structures, rather than to transform them.
The discovery and export of oil required a unified centralized bureaucratic institutions
that could ease dealings with the international oil firms, who played a pivotal role in
implementing this unified as opposed to federal system in 1963. This increased the
tenacity of the patronage system and heralded the creation of state institutions that
were designed to distribute the oil wealth to the citizens through clientalist ‘jobs’ in
the public sector. A trend that al-Qadhafi exasperated and increased in scale and scope
as part of an implicit social contract of dependence and patronage, creating a
structurally distorted system which increased unemployment and reduced incentives
for democracy and accountability. That the citizen felt a sense of entitlement to the oil
wealth was linked to the history of statelessness and individual and local sovereignty
described in the previous chapter, al-Qadhafi’s libertarian anarchist Third Universal
Theory further encouraged this as a real entitlement. Al-Qadhafi simultaneously
utilized the tribal system, informal networks and parallel institutions to create a
mediated monopoly on coercion that he personally controlled, leaving this element
!
52!
plus the control of hydrocarbon income outside the scope of the ‘Jamahiriya’ Popular
Congresses and Committee system. 158
Al-Qadhafi’s personal centralization of capital and coercion allowed him to
consistently hold the system together by controlling and manipulating the individuals
and social forces being empowered. Nevertheless the system did provide stability and
the semblance of a state, but he was the guarantor of the stability of that system, and
the distortions inherent in it led to the 2011 revolution, which will be looked at in the
final section. In short, Qadhafi’s unique form of governance harmonized the
contradictions between the tribal and regional social structures of Libya by plastering
over them a veneer of ‘state-ishness’ without modifying or harmonizing the
underlying pre-modern social cleavages.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
158 Davis 1988 p23
!
53!
Chapter 4: The return to Statelessness post-2011
This thesis has demonstrated that throughout much of its history Libya, particularly in
the hinterlands, was a semi stateless society, organized semi autonomously according
to kinship, tribe and local interests, with a limited and often resistant relationship with
the central authorities. It has shown that the rulers of Libya post independence in 1951,
particularly Muammar al-Qadhafi, recognized and manipulated this reality, while
creating the image of a state whose sovereignty was enshrined in its popular
institutions. But that the reality, however was that sovereignty was highly centralized
in al-Qadhafi within a system of patronage that he personally controlled and stabilized.
From this framework, the thesis can demonstrate that the revolution in 2011 removed
this factor of stability and returned Libya by default to a situation similar to its
stateless past. The current perpetuation of the veneer of statehood under the inherited
system is thus counter-productive.
The previous section has shown how al-Qadhafi perpetuated statelessness while
simultaneously using the hydrocarbon income to create an implicit social contract and
a system based on patronage and dependence which was entirely contingent on him
personally as the guarantor of its stability. It was also shown how this social contract
created structural distortions in the system that disincentivized democracy, reform and
private sector development, and centralized economic and political empowerment
through an occupation in the State, leading to rampant unemployment and discontent;
a major factor in the 2011 revolution.
!
54!
The revolution removed the stabilizer and guarantor of the system while
simultaneously attempting to use the same distributive patronage institutions to
govern the country.159 In the absence of a national vision or group that provides a new
guarantor of stability, or a new system based on a new social contract, further
fragmentation and atomization ensued as different social forces satisfied their sense of
entitlement to the country’s resources at each other’s expense, a process which could
lead to an economic collapse of the country.160 This process of fragmentation and
atomization down to the local level, alongside the failure of the state to deliver
services161 is leading to the performance of state functions by private individuals and
entities, such as security by local armed groups, 162 who are connected to their
communities and bonded by a strong social cohesion that perpetuates distrust in the
state and its authority. 163
This section will argue that this fragmentation is both galvanized by, and reenergizes
an image of statelessness and freedom from central authority internalized in the
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
159 Transparency international, (2015), conflicts of interest in public sector recruitments in Libya,
http://voluntasadvisory.com/wp-
content/uploads/2016/04/Conflicts_of_Interest_in_Public_Sector_Recruitments_in_Libya_Jan15_Wor
kking_Paper.pdf; Combaz, E, (2014), Political economy of Libya after the Qadhafi regime, GSDRC,
http://www.gsdrc.org/docs/open/hdq1084.pdf;
160 World Bank report on Libya fall 2016,
http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/282581475460786200/Libya-MEM-Fall-2016-ENG.pdf; Stephen, C
(31/10/2016), The Guardian, Libya crisis talks held in London as economy 'nears collapse',
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/31/libya-crisis-talks-london-economy-near-collapse
161 Cafiero, G (2015), Foreign Policy in Focus, Four Years After Gaddafi, Libya Is a Failed State,
http://fpif.org/four-years-after-gaddafi-libya-is-a-failed-state/
162 Fadel, L (26/2/2014) Outmanned And Outgunned, Libya Struggles To Fix Its Broken Army,
http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/02/26/282594241/outmanned-and-outgunned-libya-
struggles-to-fix-its-broken-army
163 Cole, P., & In McQuinn, B. (2015). The Libyan Revolution and its aftermath. New York : Oxford
University Press,; Whitehouse et al, (2014), Brothers in arms: Libyan revolutionaries bond like family,
PNAS, vol111 no50, pp17783-17785
!
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Libyan mind set historically, and that further pulls Libya apart towards a semi-
Hobbesian stateless reality reminiscent of the past.
The 2011 Libyan Uprisings
By 2011, the contradictions inherent in al-Qadhafi’s dual Jamahiriya/totalitarian
policies had created grievances and demands that came to be a mobilizing force for a
large enough portion of the Libyan population to rise up against the regime. The result
was a conflict that started a few days after the first protests in Benghazi on February
15th 2011, and lasted officially until the 23rd October.164 In that time, communities
mobilized at a local level and organized themselves as fighting forces against the
regime165, and similarly, some social forces mobilized under the banner of the regime
to combat what they saw as a Western/Islamist conspiracy against Libya.
The social forces that mobilized against the regime did not benefit from the state
resources of their opponents, and had to rely on grassroots mobilization and
organization in order to gain local, national and international support. 166 The link
between these revolutionary social forces and the Centre, as represented at that time
by the National Transitional Council, was nominal and symbolic, with the legitimacy
of the NTC being more strongly reliant on the local forces than the other way round.
Each local community had its own locally organized and legitimate authorities that
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
164 In Cole, P., & In McQuinn, B. (2015). The Libyan Revolution and its aftermath. New York : Oxford
University Press,
165 On the notion of the plurality of the uprisings see Pack, J. (2013). The 2011 Libyan uprisings and
the struggle for the post-Qadhafi future. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
166 Brian, M. Q. (February 01, 2015). History’s Warriors: The Emergence of Revolutionary Battalions
in Misrata in Cole, P.& McQuinn, B. (2015)
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acted as the focal points for the nascent central authorities, these were mainly in the
form of Local Councils and Military Councils. 167 This was a pattern that would carry
through the time of the General National Congress (2012-2014) and the House of
Representatives (2014-present) and all of the central governments appointed since
2011. 168
What the following section will show is that local social forces are still as powerful
and relevant with as much pull on Libyans identities and loyalties as they were
throughout Libya’s history, if not more, and will focus on the role of many of the
armed groups as part and parcel and indeed an extension of these social structures.
This indicates that coercive strategies to extend the Centre’s control over these
communities in the absence of a substantial national vision are doomed to failure the
same way they were in the past because they are not seeking to create institutions to
homogenise discordant social factions or an overarching narrative to connect them.
Although, its important to mention, partly because of the marginalization of the
formal military institution under al-Qadhafi, that in any case, the current Central
authorities are only able to utilize revolutionary and post revolutionary armed groups
to implement coercive expansion, rather than an unbiased military which is absent in
the country. 169
As previously mentioned, Al-Qadhafi’s removal in 2011 opened the floodgates to
opposing social and political forces in Libya to struggle against each other for control
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
167 Fitzgerald, M & European Council on Foreign Relations, (2015), Mapping Libya’s factions,
http://www.ecfr.eu/mena/mappinglibya
168 ibid
169 Fadel, L (2014)
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of key State institutions, or in a more nuanced sense, struggling for control of portions
of the patronage creating power of oil wealth. The political processes and coalition
governments formed from 2011 till now are based on this method of appeasing
conflicting actors by appointing them in senior positions. As the majority of the
workforce (70%) was employed in the public sector170, the State became the
battleground for society to get its piece of entitlement, in most cases; this caused the
fragmentation of State institutions. At the senior level, appointing a Minister and up to
four deputy Ministers in order to appease the highest number of potential spoilers171
further damaged the institutions (secondary) function; to deliver services172, and
allowed competing socio political and ideological forces to empower and entrench
themselves and their networks. This process inevitably came to a head in 2014 with
the formation of two opposing Governments and Parliaments, and in 2016 with the
formation of three bodies all claiming to be Libya’s legitimate authority, including the
UN-backed Government of National Accord. 173 At this point, many state institutions
have functionally collapsed, and now only serve to distribute oil wealth through
salaries.
The sense of entitlement and ownership to the oil wealth inherent in society, as well
as a feeling of unequal distribution of oil wealth among the three regions also led to a
number of oil field closures from 2012 until the present. 174 This prevented the export
of oil and led to a dwindling of foreign currency reserves and a budget deficit of 60%
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
170 Abuhadra, D and Ajaali, T, (2014),
171 Pack, J., Mezran, K., Eliharh, M., & Atlantic Council of the United States. (2014). Libya's Faustian
bargains: Breaking the appeasement cycle.
172 Secondary to the distribution of oil wealth
173 ECFR (2015), A quick guide to Libya’s main players,
http://www.ecfr.eu/mena/mapping_libya_conflict
174 Libya Prospect Jul 27, 2016, 100 Billion Dollars losses due to oil ports closure
http://libyaprospect.com/index.php/2016/07/27/100-billion-dollars-losses-due-to-oil-ports-closure/
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and rising175, leading to a potential economic collapse if reserves are fully depleted
and the Government cannot pay its budget allocations, particularly salaries and
subsidies, which make up around 60% of the central budget. 176
Figure 2177
The consequences of the above are difficult to predict, but is currently resulting in
further fragmentation of the country and the retreat of Libyans to local authorities and
the social structures they trust, namely neighbourhood, family and tribe. 178 The
fragmentation of central governance also reflects this and so far 67 local governorates
have been formed, all vying for some form of semi-autonomous relationship with the
Centre.
Armed groups or armed population?
As the previous sections have shown how historically, Libya has always been a
mediated state where the central authorities have had to negotiate power with local
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
175 World Bank, Libya’s Economic Outlook- Spring 2016
http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/libya/publication/economic-outlook-spring-2016
176 ibid
177 ibid
178 Cristiani, D (2016), The Libyan Oil Crisis: Social Fragmentation in an Unstable State, Terrorism
Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 7
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power brokers, the revolution has led to the multiplication of the number of actors that
hold social and military power that need to be mediated with or appeased.
A number of parallel organizations were created to integrate armed revolutionaries
into State institutions, the most prominent of which were the Supreme Security
Committee and the Libya Shield Forces, which registered around 160,000 and 40,000
individuals respectively179 even though fewer than 25,000 actually participated in the
anti-Qadhafi uprisings. There was a dramatic rise in the number of individuals
registered in armed groups after the liberation of Tripoli on August 20th 2011180, this
was a symptom of the mass circulation of arms181, the existing youth unemployment,
the desire for a salary and empowerment, and the desire for safety and security by
being a member of an armed group. This meant that there was a large-scale
multiplication of the number of actors that now needed to be mediated with.
All of this occurred within the self-perpetuating environment of mutual fear and
deterrence created by the proliferation of arms and armed groups, and the
fragmentation of the States sovereignty and monopoly on legitimate violence. Al-
Qadhafi maintained monopoly on force by utilizing various informal networks,
parallel military structures, temporary and revolutionary organizations to parallel the
marginalized formal military institution. It was these forces that were active in
combatting the revolutionaries in 2011 and once defeated, the monopoly on force they
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
179 Lacher, W & Cole, P (2014), Politics by Other Means, Conflicting Interests in Libya's Security
Sector, Small Arms Survey, Working Paper 20, October 2014
180 Especially after the battle of Bab al Azziziyah on August 23-24th 2011. Tripoli Military Council
opened an office in Central Tripoli which registered close to 10,000 people
181 “It is understood [British intelligence agency] MI6 estimates there are a million tons of weaponry in
Libya more than the entire arsenal of the British Army and much of it is unsecured.” The
Sunday Times 16/6/2013, MI6 warns Libyan arms dumps are ‘Tesco for world terrorists’
http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article1274615.ece
!
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once created for Al-Qadhafi was not automatically transferred to the new authorities.
Rather, monopoly on force was effectively decentralized down to the local level, and
the armed groups that had the highest level of group cohesion; community legitimacy;
and resources would become the most influential.
Although the National Transitional Council nominally represented the political face of
the armed revolution, it lacked a monopoly on coercion, be it mediated or direct
because the balance of power was highly tilted towards the local, its main source of
legitimacy was international and for a time, revolutionary. The international
community simultaneously granted legal sovereignty to the post revolution authorities
while causing the fragmentation of local sovereignty through the removal of al-
Qadhafi.
This thesis posits that the majority, but not all of the armed groups are extensions of
the social structures that make up the country, and that the armed groups thus reflect
the social makeup of the area they originate from, i.e. urban, tribal (kinship), street,
area, town, city etc. In this sense, it may be more relevant to speak of an armed
population,182 which has organized naturally for mutual defense.183 These groups
enjoy local legitimacy, and strong social and group cohesion.184 However, not all
armed groups have the this type of local legitimacy and social cohesion with their
communities, whether they are revolutionary, criminal or extremist, however their
lack of local legitimacy makes it difficult for them to sustain their operation. You can
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
182 shaab musalah or armed people as mentioned in alQadhafis Green Book
183 Nozick
184 Mcquinn, B (2012), Typology and Roles of Armed Groups in Libya, ), Small Arms Survey;
Mcquinn, B (2012), After the fall, Libya’s evolving armed groups, Small Arms Survey; Lacher, W.
(January 01, 2013). The rise of tribal politics. The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the
Post-Qadhafi Future / Ed. by Jason Pack
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find criminally orientated groups that are defended by their local communities if
attacked by groups from another area.
Of course since 2011 there has been the creation of new armed groups that formed as
a result of more recent conflicts, and have built a similar type of group cohesion and
local legitimacy based on the shared experience of conflict, this is especially the case
in Benghazi since the advent of Operation Dignity in 2014.185 In any case, that they
have formed with reference to local rather than national identity makes the situation
similar to that of the pre independence period, when inter tribal and inter city rivalry
and conflict were rife. In order to demonstrate that some of these armed groups are
extensions of social structures and are part of local semi-independent socio-political-
economic-military organizations, a number of examples will be used, as follows.
The city of Misrata, around 210km East of Tripoli, was historically a member of the
coastal suff confederation, who engaged in conflict with members of the interior suff,
and as described in chapter iii, was active in the anti-colonial resistance. The
population is now approximately 500,000, with around 40,000 people registered in
around 236 armed groups or ‘brigades’.186 Many of this number merge into a number
of larger brigades which are area/neighbourhood orientated, of which there are around
57 areas, with a similar number of large families and tribes, many of who are from
Arabized amazigh or kologhlized origins.187
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
185 Sayigh, Y (29/5/2014) Libya’s new military Politics, Carnegie Endowment
http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/05/29/libya-s-new-military-politics-back-to-future-pub-55714
186 ibid p13
187 Najem, F (2004)
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The city has its own Military Council, elected Municipality, Elders council, is known
for the economic prowess of its inhabitants who independently financed the brigades,
and although internally fragmented, like other areas of Libya, has its own mechanism
of conflict resolution and mediation with other areas and the central authorities.188 It is
thus described by many Libyans as operating as a semi-independent city-state.189
The largest revolutionary brigades in Misrata are organized as families and areas, for
example: the area of Maqasba and its brigades, the Halbus brigade and the Maqasba
martyrs brigade are dominated by members of the Shaklawun, Halabsa, Hadada and
Irfaida families. The martyrs brigade (Katibat al Shaheed) is dominated by the
families from Qasr Ahmad, the large Mahjub brigade is made up of the families from
the Zawiyat al Mahjub area, primarily the Suqmani and Busnena families, al-
Qurdabiya brigade; Ben Ras Ali family, Sur al Madina brigade; al Maqawba and al
Kwafi tribes.190 The same is the case with the majority of the brigades in Misrata,
although the Central authority has registered and pays salaries to most of the brigades
under the umbrella of the Chief of Staffs Office or the Ministry of Interior through
various organizations, the reality is that these groups will mainly accept direction
from locally legitimate authorities rather than the central state. The same situation
exists in nearly every city and town in Libya, including Benghazi, Zintan, Bani Walid
and Wershefana.
What this section has described is a highly fragmented reality where power is
atomized to the local level, and even then, within cities and areas there is
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
188 Pack and Eljarh, “Localizing Power in Libya” Atlantic Council MENA Source, NOVEMBER 26,
2013, http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/articles/localizing-power-in-libya
189 ECFR (2015), A quick guide to Libya’s main players,
190 Interview with Misrata notable
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63!
fragmentation, with inter armed group rivalry, and no one holding decisive power
over anyone else. It is debatable at this point whether the social structures control the
armed groups, whether they are one and the same, or whether the armed group is a
social structure in of itself that effectively has more influence on the family, clan and
tribal units than the other way round. The only thing preventing a situation described
by Hobbes as "the war of all against all"191 is the organizing function and legitimacy
of kinship based social structures, and the only thing forming any semblance of
connection to the centre is the distribution of oil through salaries. In cities such as
Tripoli where the influence of tribal structures is less than the hinterlands, the absence
of these organizing tribal structures is causing a descent towards lawlessness. And the
threat of the state not being to pay salaries if there is an economic collapse could also
mean both a rapid descent towards anarchy, and a complete disconnection from the
centre.
Conclusion
Under al-Qadhafi, the state deliberately perpetuated statelessness, in theory, but in
practice retained a firm monopoly on the use of force that Qadhafi gained by
mediation and manipulation of social forces in the country. Post revolution,
statelessness is becoming the reality, and the image or illusion of a state is what is
being perpetuated. The state, by Goldstone’s measure192, has failed, as it has lost both
effectiveness in terms of its ability to provide services and perform functions, and
legitimacy193; the proof of which is in the existence of three governments and two
parliaments all questioning each other’s legitimacy. 194
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
191 191 Hobbes (1651), ch14 ‘’Bellum omnium contra omnes’’
192 Goldstone, State Failure
193 The receipt of salaries by the majority of the population does not mean recognition of the states
legitimacy in this case, it is rather a satisfaction of an internalized sense of entitlement to the natural
resources of the country, which is linked to the citizen’s notion of their individual sovereignty.
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64!
But attempting to bolster the states effectiveness without resolving the structural
imbalance described earlier is not possible. Al-Qadhafi’s removal exasperated rather
than removed the structural imbalances in the system, while at the same time
removing the ability to govern it. This may provide an explanation of why state
building efforts since 2011 have failed thus far. That Libya has returned to its pre
independence stateless state means that power brokers in the country must redefine
the notion of a Libyan identity and social contract in a way that has no precedent in
Libya’s modern history.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
194 ECFR (2015), A quick guide to Libya’s main players,
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Book
This edited volume provides the first fully comprehensive evaluation of Libya since the Qadhafi coup in 1969. Throughout the different chapters the authors explore the rise of the military in Libya, the impact of its self-styled revolution on Libyan society and economy.
Book
Book synopsis: In this magisterial work, Sami Zubaida draws on a distinguished career's worth of experience trying to understand the region to address the fundamental question in Middle East studies: what is the Middle East? He argues, controversially, that to see it through the prism of Islam, as it is conventionally viewed, is to completely misunderstand it. Many of what we think of as the 'Islamic' characteristics of the region are products of culture and society, not religion.To think of Islam itself as an essential, anti-modern force in the region rather than something shaped by specific historical-economic processes is, Zubaida argues, a mistake. Instead, he offers us an alternative view of the region, its historic cosmpolitanism, its religious and cultural diversity, its rapid adoption of new media cultures, which reveals a multi-faceted and complex region teeming with multiple identities. Wide-ranging, erudite and powerfully argued, Zubaida's work will be essential reading for future generations of students of this fascinating region.