Sovereign Rent in Post-World War II Liberia, 1945-1971: Imperative Foundation of State and Nation Building

Toe, Samuel (2020) Sovereign Rent in Post-World War II Liberia, 1945-1971: Imperative Foundation of State and Nation Building. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of Thesis (FINAL 6.24.20) - 2 .pdf]
Download (3MB) | Preview


This dissertation examines the Liberian state in the immediate post-World War Two (WWII) era of President William V. S. Tubman (1944-1971), through a critical assessment of Rentier State Theory. The Rentier State Theory predicts a set of negative relationships between state rent and political and economic developments in so-called ‘late developing’ states. The theory has also been used to account for the eruption and perpetuity of civil wars in Liberia between 1989 and 2003, in which rent revenue played a pivotal role. And yet, rent has historically accounted for a substantial share of Liberia’s fiscal intake since its founding as an independent nation in 1847, especially with the arrival of the American firm, Firestone Rubber Company, in 1926. With the discovery and exploitation of iron ore, timber, and other commodities in early 1950s, government’s proceeds from resource rent dramatically increased. It was precisely during this post-WW II period of immense sovereign rent that we witnessed the development of a strong, prosperous, and stable Liberian state domestically and internationally. The expected outcome of conflict due to state rent also remained absent during the period, and for a further twenty years. But despite these anomalies, the Rentier State Theory continues to dominate inquiries into Liberia’s political economy particularly, and resource-rich African nations in general.
This dissertation produces new evidence to argue that, in contrast to widely accepted premises of rent’s deleterious effects on the state, rent revenue in fact played a constructive and pivotal role in the dynamic processes of state and nation building throughout Liberia’s history, but especially during the Tubman era (1944-1971). Accordingly, this dissertation makes three original contributions to knowledge. Empirically, it produces fresh evidence that contradicts the predicted negative outcomes of the Rentier State Theory, offering a new layer of empirical data in the debate. Theoretically, the dissertation deconstructs the Rentier State framework, arguing instead for a framing of sovereign rent not as a destructive element of governance, but as an inherent feature of modern state formation, and indeed of statehood itself. It argues that the very notion of a ‘rentier state’ as undesirable in postcolonial settings is an inaccurate, unstable, and misleading oxymoron. For the ‘modern’ state is by it very nature a rentier, on account of its exclusive rights to sovereignty. Methodologically, this dissertation uncovers more than a century of archival records on Liberia, to uphold the epistemological power of longue durée history and a politico-historical approach to critically examining the postcolonial African state.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2022 10:25
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2022 01:38

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item