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Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil Hardcover – November 7, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This study of the basis of modern democracy over the past century connects oil-producing states of the Middle East with industrial democracies of the West. Mitchell argues that carbon democracy in the West has been based on the assumption that unlimited oil will produce endless economic growth, and he concludes that this model cannot survive the exhaustion of these fuels and associated climate change. Tim Mitchell has written a remarkable book that deserves a wide audience.”—Mahmood Mamdani, author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim

“A challenging, sophisticated, and important book.”—Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy

“It’s a book that tackles a really big subject, in a sweeping but readable fashion, and after reading it, it’s hard to imagine thinking about political power the same way again ... This book utterly blew me away.”—Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism

“A remarkable account of the politics of oil and nation building in the Middle East.”—The Herald

About the Author

Timothy Mitchell teaches at Columbia University. His books include Colonising Egypt, Rule of Experts, and Carbon Democracy.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (November 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844677451
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844677450
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

An excellent piece of work.
Aki Suokko
Would recommend and use this provider again.
d.r.
The book is full of such stories.
Peak Oil in Virginia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David Swanson on June 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Which came first, the oil business or the war machine that protects it? Who started this madness, the military that consumes so much of the oil or the corporations that distribute and profit from the filthy stuff?

An answer of sorts can be found in Timothy Mitchell's book, "Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil."

Western oil corporations were never strong enough, Mitchell finds, to monopolize the flow or stoppage of Middle Eastern oil without major military and financial assistance. So, they began talking about their control of Middle Eastern oil as being an imperial interest. When "imperial" went out of fashion, the phrase shifted to "strategic interest."

Early in the 20th century, the Anglo Persian Oil Company discovered that its oil stank. It contained high levels of sulfur, and people wouldn't burn it for illumination. So, the oil company enlisted the British Navy, as a customer. In fact, it pretended the Navy was a major customer for a few years until it actually became one. The British empire thus developed an interest in protecting the company's control of the oil of what is now Iran, in order to fuel the new ships of the Navy -- a navy designed to protect Britain's imperial interests.

The Royal Navy had another reason for shifting to oil-burning ships, according to Mitchell. Coal miners were developing the annoying habit of going on strike, effectively flicking off the light switch on the empire and all its toys. Coal mining involved more workers than oil drilling, and the movement of the coal, once mined, was more easily blocked en route. Coal, and the ease with which it could be sabotaged, was a driver of democracy, whereas oil would be its enemy.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett on June 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Don't fancy a whole book on economics? Me neither - this may be the solution. Strange that no-one has thought to review this, which seems to my inexpert eye to map out pretty lucidly (footnotes helpfully integrated with text) how we got where we are now, from pre-industrial to coal to 'the economy' to the present enmeshing of oil in everything. We know about the imperialist mindset (Mitchell's background in colonial Egypt informs the earlier part of the text) but Woodrow Wilson doesn't come out of it that well either. By choosing to combine against each other rather than giving the producing countries independence while keeping production of crucial raw materials under international control (paternalism without nationalism? I guess it was always a non-starter) the Powers eviscerated the nascent League of Nations, then the economists got in on the act (Ch 5) and now heaven help us. As an economics virgin who had never heard of America's 'greatest economist' (p132), let alone ordoliberalism, I found it absolutely fascinating. This is all our histories. Please, Amazonian biomass, am I right?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By elw91 on February 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Anthropologists, sociologists, historians, geologists, UPPER level academia
Maybe not economists bc he starts bashing at the end lol and probably not politicians bc he talks rash of them

Mitchell jumps around quite a bit throughout his chapters but the overall message he portrays is strong.
Some of his facts could be debated.While reading I recommend to think critically.
Mitchell also deposits some conspiracy theories that seem rather bizarre. Take them with a grain of salt and appreciate his refreshingly different perspective.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James A Rountree on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We like the image of our country in Harold Evans' The American Century, a noble, unselfish people who want the best for all the world. It's no coincidence that Evans' book was released before the Supreme Court appointed a war criminal president. We have no illusions now, but there was a time about 70 years ago when the U.S. saved civilization, and we yearn for the admiration and love that our parents earned and for our lost innocence. Sadly, we see in this excellent essay/book that our goodness is deeply tarnished by a use of military and political force for the benefit of Standard Oil and other robber barrons for at least 100 years.

Alas, our indifference to the suffering we inflict on brown people in distant lands is not a 21st century phenomenon.
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By Ian0723 on December 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The title for this book is misleading. The theme of this book is indeed the history of oil and its development. But in doing so, Mitchell chronicles the social, political, and economic development of mankind from the Industrial Revolution to the 21st century, and with that defines the social and economic fabric of the present. Reading this book gives a new meaning to the phrase, "we did it for the oil," and demonstrates that the foreign policies of the U.S. and much of the Western world is, and has been, all about the oil. This book is a must read for anyone, as it provides a framework from which we can look at the flawed and short-sighted policies of our governments and the disastrous impacts that they have on people all around the world today and at home.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was very pleased with this book. The author gives a very interesting twist to the story of fossil fuels, noting how the centrality and difficulty of coal production helped give unions greater power, while oil production led to a more dispersed energy system, with less power for labor. An excellent overview of a critical part of our economy -- and speaking of which, he also does a good job of analyzing the rise of neoclassical economics in the context of a rapidly emerging oil industry.
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