Monday, October 19, 2015

Dispossession: Liberalism's Crisis Part II

I introduced my new book project with an excerpt from the concluding chapter addressing the western financial complex a few days ago:

Below find an EXCERPT from Dispossession: Liberalism's Crisis Chapter 6 (the conclusion) concerning the oil complex:

Chapter Four explores how government and BP crisis management of the BP oil disaster re-inscribed extractive, mercantile and warlike conceptions of carbon security that violate fundamental liberal rights of property and personhood. The BP oil crisis was an inevitable outcome of the dominant extractive and dispossessing logic adopted by the oil industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although the nineteenth century vulgarity has been tempered and domesticated with regulations, the extractive and ultimately risk-laden logic continues to be prioritized by the oil complex and the broader carbon complex more generally. Government is incapable of authentic reform, because it too is badly captured by nineteenth century formulations of colonial mercantilism, layered onto a twenty-first century state dominated by the military industry complex.
We see the captured regulatory state in the White House collusion with BP to minimize the extend, scope, and duration of the oil crisis and environmental effects. Although BP was charged with crimes against the environment, no top executives were charged individually, no investigation occurred of suspicious sales of BP stock immediately prior to crisis, and BP was subject to no long-lasting discipline through severance of government contracting. Restoration efforts were limited and will not be adequate to address the extent of damage wrought by the spill upon an already degrading ecosystem. The Gulf of Mexico becomes more and more contaminated by petrochemicals and the lifestyle and health of the people within it degrades with little hope of full restoration. Restoration is simply too costly within the homogenized economic calculus shared by the oil industry and government regulators across too many levels.
How can the liberal promises of self-government and the pursuit of happiness survive when our global economy is dominated by ruthless energy financial and energy complexes, predator states and the oppositional forces engendered by their mercantile colonialism? The greatest source of resistance to the western oil complex identified in Chapter Four comes from the state-owned energy enterprises that were largely, although not exclusively, institutionalized as anti-colonial enterprises. Unfortunately, it appears that state enterprises often simply re-inscribed colonial governing logics and strategies. Moreover, despite their control over substantial oil supplies, the state enterprises do not control global commodity markets and still must operate within a neoliberal global financial system mediated primarily by the US dollar. Efforts to conduct oil sales in national currencies are underway and may somewhat erode neoliberal financial hegemony, but replacing one system of centralized and extractive control for another does not promise ecological improvements, nor the pursuit of self-governance and happiness.
Neoliberal financialization has increased the inertia against change that is everywhere encoded in infrastructures, lifestyles, and politics. Financialization manufactures value from increasingly abstract underlying phenomena. Abstracted value from equities, debt, and commodities is traded on global markets, with trades dominated by the world’s most powerful institutional investors. Owners of the world’s financial contracts scalp value and dictate industry growth trajectories globally, producing market volatility in pricing that ultimately increases costs and narrows choices for end consumers, while externalizing risks from supply chain hazards to communities. In particular, the added value attached to energy commodities through their financialization in complex derivatives traded on commodity exchanges and dark pools contributes to volatility, increases inertia against change and encourages policy aimed at perpetuating an unsustainable status quo. The unsustainable status quo entails unremitting escalation of resource extraction despite known catastrophic risks, even in a context of dampened demand. For example, efforts underway within the US to allow oil exports are aimed at increasing profitability while the ecological costs of “innovative” extractive technologies, including deepwater drilling and fracking, are externalized to impacted communities and future generations who face degraded environments. The BP oil disaster was not an isolated case. In the wake of the fracking boom that swept the US over the last decade, communities face clean-up of abandoned wells, compromised injection sites, and depleted and degraded fresh water. The legacy of boom-times gone bad includes instabilities in financial markets as banks that fueled the financial bubble and financed industrial expansion when prices and demand were high are now taking huge losses on loans to tied to energy company losses, as illustrated by Wells Fargo’s loan charge-off of $122 million in commercial-and-industrial loan portfolio in 2015, as compared to $67 million in 2014.[i] Wells Fargo reported that it expected “correlated stress in communities that are dependent upon oil and gas.” Emerging markets are gauged to be particularly vulnerable to the ongoing collapse of the mega commodities bubble. One wonders where the hot money is going now?
Extractive logics and practices in energy markets are made more dangerous by imperial governmental deployments to secure supply chains and access to markets. Escalating violence in the Middle East over oil, natural gas supply lines, and fresh water is evolving into a proxie war between Russia, Iran, and President Assad of Syria, on the one hand, and amorphous “rebels,” the US, Japan and allied western powers, on the other hand. A humanitarian crisis is brewing in the region that could unleash very dangerous thanatopolitics as Europeans on the periphery are overwhelmed by refugees.


  1. I love all of your work, but if I may offer some constructive criticism or at least an use too many "big" words. I know that sounds simplistic, but most readers, even well-educated ones, prefer easy reading.

    Even in business, CEO's and management want short power-point presentations which use the simplest words.

    Yes, it has gotten that bad out there.

    I know that you are highly intelligent, but most people are not. Say things as simply as you can and you will be understood better.

    Also, please watch your proof-reading:

    For example, this sentence is yours above:

    "We see the captured regulatory state in the White House collusion with BP to minimize the extend, scope, and duration of the oil crisis and environmental effects."

    Should "extend" be extent ?

    I hope you don't mind my observations. It is meant with all due respect.

    1. Constructive criticism is appreciated...


      Apologies for poor proofing. Blogging is my rough draft work....