Kleptocracy and Neoliberal Shock Therapy – Talented Researchers Wanted

Professor Kristian Lasslett of the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland, posts this announcement about funding opportunities for doctoral candidates.

A kleptocracy is a state where government institutions have been captured and then employed to rig the national political-economy. Rigging the national economy allows the benefits from the revenues generated by the state’s many estuaries of activity to be politically choreographed, leading to a centralisation of wealth and an increase in inequality. It also allows revenues to be channelled from one sector of the economy to another through various rackets. It could be that public revenues are systematically pilfered, or profits from those sectors in the economy not controlled by members of the kleptocratic regime are squeezed so that those sectors under the command of kleptocrats can earn artificially inflated revenues. Kleptocratic regimes also see public and private assets alienated through means that allow kleptocrats to obtain fixed and circulating capital at a discounted price or permit the kleptocrats to offload the assets at an artificial premium.

What happens to a kleptocratic regime when it is subjected to neoliberal shock therapy? Does it allow state-organised criminal rackets to become legitimate?  Does it lead to a steady erosion of kleptocracy? Does it produce a new elite that sits alongside an old kleptocratic guard? Or does it intensify the kleptocratic dynamic thus creating a worst of all possible situations scenario?

Ulster University is currently advertising a generously funded doctoral research post to test a series of hypotheses emerging from regions where kleptocracy and shock therapy overlap. 

Interested candidate should apply through the Doctoral Training Alliance website shown below.

It is anticipated that their research would employ the case study methodology to test whether the dynamics at work in kleptocratic regimes can also be observed in neoliberalised states, particularly when neoliberalism as a system of governance is imposed or adopted in a particularly condensed and intense form often termed “shock therapy.”  With shock therapy national assets are often centralised in a small number of hands, often at a discounted price through fire-sale privatisation efforts. Revenues are redistributed, particularly from public streams to private ones, through a reduction in taxation. We also see the rise of finance capital, which leads to a situation where the latter sector in effect rent seeks from the rest of the economy.

In contrast to kleptocratic regimes, shock therapy can be achieved through policies and legislation that are passed by parliaments – even if in a situation of democratic deficit – and are not necessarily illegal in nature (although widespread criminality can be an adjunct to shock therapy).

When executed properly a case study allows the researcher to interrogate an example or examples, in fine detail using multiple data streams. It produces studies that are context rich. And in so doing it allows questions of causation to be established with greater clarity.

The Doctoral Training Alliance is designed to bring to the UK the best international research talent. The researcher in this case will be based at the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland, a city rich in history and culture, offering a high standard of living for the successful applicant.  Ulster is one of the top ranked UK universities for its research in law and policy. Inquiries about this unique opportunity can be sent to Professor Kristian Lasslett: kak.lasslett@ulster.ac.uk

Information about the PhD scheme may be found here:


Eligibility information is here:


FAQ: https://unialliance.ac.uk/dta/cofund/frequently-asked-questions/

More information on the kleptocracy project can be found here (search kleptocracy to find the project):


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