Political Culture in Qatar: State-Society Relations and National Identity in Transformation

Part of the Contemporary Gulf Studies book series (CGS)


Within the Gulf Cooperation Council states such as Qatar, societal changes are rapidly taking place that have lasting effects on the political culture of the region. Specifically, studies have identified the rise of a participatory type of new nationalism that is characterized by the mobilization of the citizenry in support of both the state and its ruling monarchs (Diwan, Gulf Societies in Transition: National Identity and National Projects in the Arab Gulf States. Washington, DC: The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, 2016). In Gulf rentier states where welfare distribution and tribal affiliation are interlinked, individual Gulf citizens are negotiating their own identities in relation to the nation, whether in regard to tribal affiliation, Islamic identity, or other aspects of belonging depending on the dynamics of inclusivity in their specific country contexts. As political culture is not inert but changes in relation to transformations in society (Molchanoy 2002), this study explores the impact of recent developments in state-society relations and national identity on the political culture of Qatar. Opting to collect data on the political opinions, attitudes, and values of a segment of the Qatari population through structured interviews similar to those found within previous larger-scale studies on political culture (Inglehart, Modernization and Post Modernization. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997) alongside a textual analysis of official government publications, this study employs a qualitative methodology to explore the political culture in Qatar and its relationship to state-society relations as it is experienced or ‘lived’ (Ely et al., Doing Qualitative Research: Circles Within Circles. London: Falmer, 1991) by Qatari citizens. Findings argue that traditional Qatari political culture is predominantly based on two sets of individual orientations: deference and the mutual expectations of the welfare state system as these relate to human capital dynamics. Due to recent societal transformations in Qatar and their impact on how its citizenry views national identity, we find that Qatari political culture may be undergoing changes that could have lasting and long-term impacts on the nature of state-society relations in this tiny, Gulf monarchy.


  1. Almond, G. (1956). Comparative Political Systems. The Journal of Politics, 18(3), 391–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almond, G. (1983). Communism and Political Culture Theory. Comparative Politics, 15(2), 127–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Almond, G., & Verba, S. (1963). The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Boston: Little: Brown.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Al-Naqeeb, K. N. (2012). Society and State in the Gulf and Arab Peninsula: A Different Perspective (Vol. 4). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Alsharekh, A., & Springborg, R. (2012). Popular Culture and Political Identity in the Arab Gulf States (Vol. 6). London: Saqi.Google Scholar
  6. Al-Zoby, M., & Baskan, B. (2014). State-Society Relations in the Arab Gulf Region: Dilemmas and Prospects. In M. Al-Zoby & B. Baskan (Eds.), State-Society Relations in the Arab Gulf States (pp. 1–13). Berlin: Gerlach Press.Google Scholar
  7. Aman, M. M., & Jayroe, T. J. (2013). ICT, Social Media, and the Arab Transition to Democracy: From Venting to Acting. Domes, 22, 317–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ayubi, N. N. (1996). Over-Stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East. London/New York: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  9. Bahry, L. (1999). Elections in Qatar: A Window of Democracy Opens in the Gulf. Middle East Policy, 6(4), 118–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Banfield, E. (1958). The Moral Basis of a Backward Society. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  11. Beblawi, H., & Luciani, G. (2015). The Rentier State. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bukhari, I. (2017, July 17). Iconic ‘Tamim Al Majd’ Image Becomes Immortal. The Peninsula Qatar. Retrieved from'Tamim-Al-Majd'-image-becomes-immortal
  14. Carreira da Silva, F., Clark, T. N., & Brito Vieira, M. (2015). Political Culture. In The International Encyclopedia of Political Communication (Vol. 1, pp. 1–10). Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
  15. Constitution of Qatar. (2003). Retrieved from
  16. Dalton, R. & Welzel, C. (2014). Political Culture and Value Change. In Dalton, R. & Welzel, C. (Eds.), The Civic Culture Transformed. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Diwan, K. S. (2016). Gulf Societies in Transition: National Identity and National Projects in the Arab Gulf States (Workshop Report 3). Washington, DC: The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.Google Scholar
  18. Ely, M., Anzul, M., Friedman, T., Garner, D., & Steinmetz, A. M. (1991). Doing Qualitative Research: Circles Within Circles. London: Falmer.Google Scholar
  19. Gellner, E. (1994). Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and Its Rivals. London: Hamish Hamilton.Google Scholar
  20. Goddard, H. (2002). Islam and Democracy. The Political Quarterly, 73, 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gunter, B., & ElAreshi, M. (2016). The Significance of Social Media in the Arab World. In B. Gunter, M. ElAreshi, & K. Al-Jaber (Eds.), Social Media in the Arab World: Communication and Public Opinion in the Gulf States. London: I.B. Tauris.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hakmeh, J. (2017). Cybercrime and the Digital Economy in the GCC Countries. London: Chatham House.Google Scholar
  23. Inglehart, R. (1988). The Renaissance of Political Culture. American Political Science Review, 82, 1203–1230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Inglehart, R. (1997). Modernization and Post Modernization. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Ismael, T. Y., & Ismael, J. S. (1993). Arab Politics and the Gulf War: Political Opinion and Political Culture. Arab Studies Quarterly, 15(1), 1–11.Google Scholar
  26. Jackman, R., & Miller, R. (1996). A Renaissance of Political Culture? American Journal of Political Science, 40(3), 632–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jones, M.. (2017). Hacking, Bots and Information Wars in the Qatar Spat. POMEPS Briefings 31: the Qatar Crisis (pp. 8–9). Washington: Project on Middle Easetern Political Science.Google Scholar
  28. Kamrava, M. (2013). Qatar: Small State, Big Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kedourie, E. (2013). Democracy and Arab Political Culture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Khuri, F. (1990). Tents and Pyramids: Games and Ideology in Arab Culture from Backgammon to Autocratic Rule. London: Saqi.Google Scholar
  31. Luciani, G. (1990). The Arab State. New York: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  32. Middle East: Qatar. (2018, January 3). Retrieved from
  33. Molchanov, M. (2002). Political Culture and National Identity in Russian-Ukrainian Relations. Available at SSRN 2874046.Google Scholar
  34. Monarchy. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. Retrieved January 9, 2018, from
  35. Moore, B. (1966). Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  36. Nesbitt-Larking, P. (1992). Methodological Notes on the Study of Political Culture. Political Psychology, 13(1), 79–90. Scholar
  37. Price, D. E. (1999). Islamic Political Culture, Democracy, and Human Rights: A Comparative Study. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  38. Putnam, R. (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton: University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Putnam, R. D. (1995). Tuning In, Tuning Out: The Strange Disappearance of Social Capital in America. PS: Political Science & Politics, 28(4), 664–683.Google Scholar
  40. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital. In Culture and Politics (pp. 223–234). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  41. Rotberg, R. I. (1999). Social Capital and Political Culture in Africa, America, Australasia, and Europe. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 29(3), 339–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rugh, A. (1996). The Foreign Policy of the United Arab Emirates. The Middle East Journal, 50(1), 57–70.Google Scholar
  43. Rugh, A. (2007). The Political Culture of Leadership in the United Arab Emirates. New York: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tausch, A. (2016). The Civic Culture of the Arab World: A Comparative Analysis Based on World Values Survey Data. Middle East Review of International Affairs, 20(1), 49–50.Google Scholar
  45. Tétreault, M. (2011). The Winter of the Arab Spring in the Gulf Monarchies. Globalizations, 8(5), 629–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Totalitarianism. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. Retrieved from
  47. Ulrichsen, K. (2014). Qatar and the Arab Spring: Policy Drivers and Regional Implications. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Google Scholar
  48. Verba, S. (1965). Germany: The Remaking of Political Culture. In Political Culture and Political Development (pp. 130–171). Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yuce, S., Agarwal, N., Wigand, R., Lim, M., & Robinson, R. (2014). Bridging Women Rights Networks: Analyzing Interconnected Networks in Online Collective Actions. Journal of Global Information Management., 22, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Qatar UniversityDohaQatar
  2. 2.Durham UniversityDurhamUK

Personalised recommendations