PETROLEUM & PROGRESS
Oil, Development, and the American Encounter with Iran, 1941-1965
Oil flows through a vast, interconnected system, linking crude from scattered, isolated oil fields to markets throughout the world, from Europe to Asia and the Americas. The result is energy, economic growth, carbon production--and wealth. But who gets to share in oil's bounty? Where do the rights of companies end and those of the nation-state begin? And when national governments finally rest control from the hands of private corporation, what then can be done to turn petroleum into progress?
Petroleum & Progress: Global Oil, Local Development and the American Encounter with Iran, 1941-1965 grapples with these questions. The book explores the birth of the Pahlavi "petro-state," through the complex, transnational links connecting the international oil industry, global development movement, U.S. Cold War strategy and Iranian modernization politics. Understanding the international energy system--the process by which oil is produced, refined, transported, marketed, and consumed--is intimately connected to the ways in which oil-producing states feed oil wealth into programs of economic development. In the case of Iran, oil was a way for an assertive yet weak central state to implement a transformation of society. This ambition had to be balanced with the interests of Iran's Great Power allies and the demands of the Cold War. Moreover, the question of how Iran would turn oil wealth into "oil power" brought in a host of additional actors, from oil companies to development organizations, private engineering firms, and the World Bank, which all had different ideas of what "development" in Iran would actually look like.
Unlike the deterministic assumptions of the “resource curse,” Iran’s transformation into a petro-state was hardly straightforward. Control of oil, and the transformation of inert crude deposits into “oil power,” dominated a struggle fought over budgets, boardrooms, and blood that engaged a host of actors—development NGOs, foreign oil companies, Pahlavi “developmentalists,” the U.S. government, and the shah himself—each with their own distinct agenda.
Petroleum & Progress tells the untold story of how global oil intersected with local development in Pahlavi Iran, and illustrates how the U.S. desire to “save” Iran from its own apparent economic backwardness set the country on the path towards authoritarian rule.
The book manuscript is complete and awaiting reader review.