10. The Political Economy of Lebanon
In addition to political power sharing, Lebanon’s economy is likewise “confessionalized.” There are important “rentieristic” qualities of the confessional economy, which are tied into foreign powers buying strategic geopolitical influence. Its foundations feature critical formal and informal infrastructures that consolidate political patronage along confessional lines. Its rules center around nepotistic networks that assert influence and allegiance but also consolidate communitarian solidarity. These dynamics set in motion confessional competition and communitarian bargaining over the sharing of private and public benefits. The confessional economy’s development brings important communal prosperity yet undermines crosscutting cleavage formations essential for a national economy. An ailing public sector built around confessional domains with a zero-sum game approach expands the public deficit beyond recovery. This chapter examines the different features of Lebanon’s contemporary confessional political economy and its future prospects.
The State of the State
Lebanon has a “weak state”1 with a “least functional” government.2 Consociational politics has been cursed by a fragmented political elite that has historically governed the country under a zero-sum game political approaches. Relevant to this ←163 | 164→characterization is a constitutional prerogative requiring the “ ‘inclusion” ’ and the participation of “all” the country’s sects in governance. This is spelled out in the Preamble of the Constitution, announcing that “[t] here shall be no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the pact of mutual existence.” This comprehensive “inclusion clause” has been incorporated in the confessional allocation of seats in Parliament, the distribution of public offices, and the composition...
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