Randall Hansen

Dec 16, 2023

War, Work, and Want

How the OPEC Oil Crisis Caused Mass Migration and Revolution

Oxford University Press 2023

The oil shock of 1973 changed everything. It brought the golden age of American and European economic growth to an end; it destabilized Middle Eastern politics; and it set in train processes that led to over one hundred million unexpected—and unwanted—immigrants.

In War, Work, and Want: How the OPEC Oil Crisis Caused Mass Migration and Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2023), Dr. Randall Hansen asks why, against all expectations, global migration tripled after 1970. The answer, he argues, lies in how the OPEC Oil crisis transformed the global economy, Middle Eastern geopolitics and, as a consequence, international migration. The quadrupling of oil prices and attendant inflation destroyed economic growth in the West while flooding the Middle East with oil money. American and European consumers, their wealth drained, rebuilt their standard of living on the back of cheap labor—and cheap migrants. The Middle East enjoyed the benefits of a historic wealth transfer, but oil became a poisoned chalice leading to political instability, revolution, and war, all of which resulted in tens of millions of refugees. The economic, and migratory, consequences of the OPEC oil crisis transformed the contours of domestic politics around the world. They fueled the growth of nationalist-populist parties that built their brands on blaming immigrants for collapsing standards of living, willfully ignoring the fact that mass immigration was the effect, not the cause, of that collapse.

In showing how war (the main driver of refugee flows), work (labor migrants), and want (the desire for ever cheaper products made by migrants) led to the massive upsurge in global migration after 1973, this book will reshape our understanding of the past half-century of global history.

This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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Miranda Melcher

Miranda Melcher (Ph.D., Defense Studies, Kings College, London) studies post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with deep analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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