Crude Capitalism

Crude Capitalism:Oil, Corporate Power, and the Making of the World Market

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How oil greases the wheels of global capitalism

This expansive history traces the hidden connections between oil and capitalism from the late 1800s to the current climate crisis. Beyond simplistic narratives that frame oil as 'prize' or 'curse', Crude Capitalism uncovers the surprising ways that oil is woven into the fabric of our modern world: the rise of an American-centered global order; the breakdown of Empire and anti-colonial rebellion; contemporary finance and US dollar hegemony; debt and militarism; and the emergence of new forms of synthetic consumption. Much more than an energy source or transport fuel, oil has a foundational place in all aspects of contemporary life - no challenge to the fossil fuel industry can be effective without taking this fact seriously.

Crude Capitalism maps the varied geographies of oil, including the rise of OPEC, the importance of revolutionary and Post-Soviet Russia, the crucial role of African upstream reserves, and the new petrochemical circuits that link the Middle East, China, and East Asia. The book provides an original and fine-grained empirical analysis of corporate ownership and control, including refining and petrochemicals.

By exposing these structures of power and placing oil in capitalism, the book makes an essential contribution to debates around oil-dependency and the struggle for climate justice.


  • "The trail of the serpent reaches into all the practices of man," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, of chattel slavery, and "requires a certain shutting of the eyes." So too today does oil. It's everywhere and that's why everything feels greasy. Adam Hanieh's excellent Crude Capitalism forces us to unshut our eyes, to see the way fossil fuels penetrate all aspects of modern society, both concrete and abstract. An important book.

    Greg Grandin, author of The End of the Myth
  • Adam Hanieh is essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the role of oil in the global economy. In Crude Capitalism, he has provided a field guide for navigating the difficult terrain in which we now find ourselves: situated between an accelerating climate crisis and an economy structured around fossil fuels. His insightful dissection of the often invisible ubiquity of fossil fuels in our lives - reaching far beyond energy into the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the medicines we prescribe - is integral to understanding not only why we remain so stuck in our fossil-addicted present, but critically how we might move beyond it.

    Adrienne Buller, author of The Value of a Whale
  • Wait no longer. At last, we have a critical history of petro-power that brilliantly links commodities, capital, and climate change. Crude Capitalism is a truly stunning book, tracking the history of oil through war, imperial rivalry, global finance, and world ecology. The result is an utterly compelling work, one we urgently need both to understand the world-and to change it.

    David McNally, author of Blood and Money: War, Slavery, Finance, and Empire