Saudi Arabia and the political economy of oil

The fact that oil money helped develop the power of the muwahhidun in Arabia after 1930 and made possible the resurgence of Islamic political movements in the 1970s has often been noted. But it is equally important to understand that, by the same token, it was an Islamic movement that made possible the profits of the oil industry. The political economy of oil did not happen, in some incidental way, to relied on a government in Saudi Arabia that owed its own power to the force of an Islamic political movement. Given the features of the political economy of oil – the enormous rents available, the difficulty in securing those rents due to the overabundance of supply, the pivotal role of Saudi Arabia in maintaining scarcity, the collapse of older colonial methods of imposing anti-market corporate control of the Saudi oilfields – oil profits depended on working with those forces that could guarantee the political control of Arabia: the House of Saud in alliance with the muwahhidun. The latter were not incidental, but became an internal element in the political economy of oil. ‘Jihad’ was not simply a local force antithetical to the development of ‘McWorld’; McWorld, it turns out, was really McJihad, a necessary combination of social logics and forces.

Mitchell, Timothy. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. Verso; London. 2013. p. 213 (italics in original)

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

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