Civil society rests on the principle of economic independence from politics, deemed to be a long-standing precondition to limiting the despotism of a political authority and its ability to wreak havoc on society. The paper poses the question of why civil society has thus far failed to materialize in Algeria, despite the existence of political pluralism in the country dating to the 1989 Constitution. The author contends that the persistence of rentierism in the Algerian economy has enabled the country’s government to prevent the rise of a genuine civil society in Algeria, despite the de jure acceptance of political pluralism in the country. The government has been able to use the levers of a rentier economy to subdue the political elites and dominate society, effectively controlling the political fallout of economic liberalization. The paper goes on to survey the political economic context, which led to the failure of a democratic transition in Algeria, by exploring how private capital was unable to echo the catalyzing role played by the European bourgeoisie in the democratization and political modernization of their continent.