Explore UCD

UCD Home >

Moran Oct 2021 Ruben Flores Seminar

Rentier capitalism and countermovements in Central Asia: the moral economy perspective (Balihar Sanghera and Elmira Satybaldieva)

Speaker: (opens in a new window)Ruben Flores

Date: 24 Nov 2021, 6pm

Link to the YouTube recording of the webinar (opens in a new window)here

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

The paper draws upon Sanghera and Satybaldieva’s recent book Rentier Capitalism and Its Discontents: Power, Morality and Resistance in Central Asia (Palgrave Macmillan)


This book explains and evaluates today’s economic, political, social and ecological crises through the lens of rentier capitalism and countermovements in Central Asia. Over the last three decades the rich and powerful have increased their wealth and political power to the detriment of social and environmental well-being. But their activities have not gone unchecked. Grassroots activism has resisted the harmful and damaging effects of the neoliberal commodification of things.

Providing a much-needed theorisation of the moral economy and politics of rent, this book offers in-depth case studies on finance, real estate and natural resources in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The authors show the mechanisms of rent extraction, their moral justifications and legitimacy, and social struggles against them.

This book highlights the importance of class relations, state-countermovement interactions and global capitalism in understanding social and economic dynamics in Central Asia. It will be relevant to students and researchers interested in political economy, development studies, sociology, politics and international relations.

About the authors

Balihar Sanghera is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent.

Elmira Satybaldieva is a Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Analysis Research Centre, University of Kent.

For more details see link to book (opens in a new window)here 

Contact the UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8198 | E: sp-sw-sj@ucd.ie |