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The Oil Diktat: Timothy Mitchell, James Marriott and Anna Galkina on Democracy Now

Hélène Barthélemy 8 October 2013

Today on Democracy Now! James Marriott, co-author of The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London, Timothy Mitchell, author of Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil, and Anna Galkina, campaigner with London-based arts, human rights, and environmental justice organization Platform London, discussed the Azerbaijan elections, political unrest in Egypt, oil pipelines and their impact on political systems and populations at home and abroad.

As Mitchell explains, the increasingly undemocratic structure of the US political system and workers’ lack of leverage on governmental policies are due to its reliance on oil. In an oil economy, workers do not have the "opportunity to threaten the productive system," as opposed to a coal economy where "organized workers for the first time in history [could] shut down an economy."

Moreover, this de-democratization trickles outwards, as politics in oil-producing countries are shaped by the strategic alliance between the US and Islamic conservatism: Egypt and Azerbaijan, both discussed on the show, are vivid examples of a rule that unfortunately allows few exceptions.

Yet, oil pipelines play a singularly different role in Europe and in the Middle East, as James Marriott notes. In Europe the presence of an oil pipeline from Italy to Germany barely has an influence on the local population, while it plays a determining role in the economy and society of, for instance, Azerbaijan. The Caspian oil road was traced according to the US State Department's interests: it conveniently passes through Turkey and not through Iran, China, or Russia. For those interested in reading more on the topic, Democracy Now published excerpts of The Oil Road on its website.

Tomorrow, Timothy Mitchell, James Marriott and Anna Galkina will be continuing this crucial conversation in an event held at CUNY Graduate Center, where they will speak on Politics, Money, and the Pursuit of Oil. Visit our website events page for more information on tomorrow's event.


Visit Democracy Now to see today’s discussion in full.