Banking in Freedom or Freedom in Banking? Financial Development in Singapore and Kuwait in the Era of Decolonization

Rohan Advani, University of California-Los Angeles

During the height of Third World global decolonization, struggles for political independence were not separate from, but rather deeply intertwined with, struggles for economic sovereignty and development. Literature on the developmental state has paid particular attention to industry as a form of “catch-up” development in peripheral states. Somewhat overlooked, however, is the fact that postcolonial city-states, with relatively small internal markets, looked towards banking and finance as a source of growth and diversification. Having to navigate the fraught politics of decolonization, financial development was a crucial element in bolstering the position of city-states in an emerging world order. In the tradition of comparative-historical sociology, this paper uses the cases of Kuwait and Singapore to examine how city-states developed their financial sectors in the early postcolonial period. More specifically, I ask why did Singapore develop as an international financial center with a highly developed domestic banking sector while Kuwait did not? By comparing Kuwait and Singapore, I argue that successful financial development can be explained with reference to three main sociological processes: 1) the state’s ability to discipline merchant-capitalists, 2) the institutional legacies of colonialism and post-colonial strategies to negotiate monetary decolonization, and 3) the influence of international experts.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 216. Governing through Finance