Political Science has very few "accepted truths." One of the most prominent is the claim that countries endowed with natural resources, particularly mineral wealth, are doomed to suffer from poor economic performance, unbalanced growth, weak states, and authoritarian regimes - often referred to as the "resource curse." This claim, however, is not without its critics. In recent years, a few scholars have contended that the resource curse is essentially a myth. Rather, the main culprit is the absence of viable political, economic, and social institutions, such as secure property rights and an effective bureaucracy. Yet, their emphasis on the importance of strong institutions is entirely consistent with the conventional wisdom that they are challenging. The main point of departure between these two bodies of literature is whether weak institutions are endogenous to resource wealth, and thus, inevitable in mineral rich states, or exogenous, and thus, can account for the variation in performance across these states. The experience of the Soviet successor states, which consist of both mineral rich and mineral poor countries, provides a unique opportunity to assess the relationship between mineral wealth and institutional capacity, and, in doing so, to consider whether there is in fact a resource curse.
About the speaker:
Pauline Jones Luong is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Brown University. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1998 and was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies from 1998-1999 and 2001-2002. Her primary research interests include: the rise and impact on emerging institutions; identity and conflict; and the political economy of market reform. Her area of focus is the former Soviet Union, particularly the Russian Federation and the newly independent Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan). She has published a number of articles and books. Her books include Institutional Change and Political Continuity in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Power, Perceptions, and Pacts (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and an edited volume entitled The Transformation of Central Asia: States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence (Cornell University Press, 2003)