Oil and (Non)Democratic Politics: Explaining Resource Nationalism in Russia and Venezuela

Date of Completion

January 2012


Political Science, General|Energy




This dissertation examines the relationship between political regimes and resource nationalism by asking three main questions: First, it analyzes the relationship between political regimes and degrees of resource nationalism using a three-step classification of regime type. The argument is that the relationship between political regime type and resource nationalism is non-linear once the category of hybrid regimes is introduced. By conducting a cross-country regression analysis, I find that hybrid regimes exercise higher levels of resource nationalism than both authoritarian and democratic regimes. ^ Secondly, this study explains what makes hybrid regimes more prone to resource nationalism. I argue that when the elites are under high electoral pressure, they are more likely to exercise resource nationalism. However, elites also have institutional constraints in the form of checks on the executive branch. As such, hybrid regimes are more likely to adopt resource-nationalist policies, because their institutional structure combines strong motives with low executive constraint. Elites in hybrid regimes have to take electoral pressures into consideration and they lack strong institutional mechanisms that limit the available decision set of energy policy. ^ Finally, this study looks at different resource nationalism strategies under hybrid regimes, using Russia and Venezuela as case studies. When there is high elite fragmentation within the hybrid regime, like Venezuela, the incumbent will have the incentive to secure the office in next term by guaranteeing popular support rather than relying on elite pacts. In order to achieve this winning coalition base, the most likely option is clientelism and increased public spending, and the incumbent prefers statist resource nationalism. When the elite fragmentation is low, as in Russia, the leader can form elite pacts and distribute oil revenues to elites as direct claimants to sustain the next term in office. As such, the leader will prefer private domestic ownership of oil as opposed to state ownership, opting for regulatory resource nationalism. ^