The 1973 oil crisis was an event of world-historic proportions, but the stories we tell about it often center the Global North. For instance, the first images that probably come to mind are of the long gas-station queues of Americans in their cars waiting to fill up at the height of the oil shortage. Christopher Dietrich
, in his new book, Oil Revolution: Anticolonial Elites, Sovereign Rights, and the Economic Culture of Decolonization
(Cambridge University Press, 2017) approaches the oil crisis with a different perspective. Instead of focusing on the American consumer’s struggles or the State Department’s outlook, Dietrich foregrounds oil elites from the Global South.
Dietrich documents how these elites overcame political and ideological differences to form OPEC, and how they sought to transform the global economy. By exploring, what he calls, “the economic culture of decolonization,” Dietrich shows how the material conditions and shared interests of oil elites facilitated their successful drive to organize and to raise oil prices. It is not an entirely happy story, however, as Dietrich traces the line from “sovereign rights” to the sovereign debt crisis of the 1980s.
The book is an impressive feat of scholarship and should reach a wide audience, including scholars of the Global South, resource politics, global governance, intellectual history, and U.S. foreign relations.
Dexter Fergie is a first-year PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @DexterFergie.