The most memorable slogan to emerge from the 2003 U.S. war against Iraq was the chant “no war for oil.” Robert Vitalis concurs, up to a point. A serious and inventive scholar, Vitalis’s recent works have included fascinating histories of the creation of the oil industry and the U.S.-Saudi relationship and, separately, of how race and racism shaped the emergence of international relations. Never one to shy from controversy, Vitalis turns his mix of careful historical studies, scholarly iconoclasm, and vituperation in Oilcraft to the myth that rivalries for control of oil determine world politics. Protesters may have meant that there ought not to be wars for oil, but Vitalis asserts that there are not wars for oil.
Claims that oil drives major events and trends in international relations proliferate in protests, stump speeches, and left-wing journalism. These claims form the strands of exceptionalist, commodity-driven narratives that Vitalis terms “oilcraft,” which he defines by an analogy not to statecraft but to witchcraft: “a modern-day form of magical realism” (p. 6). This myth, Vitalis argues, persists because it supplies a narrative that meets the political needs of activists and politicians—and the th
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The Price of Prestige: Conspicuous Consumption in International Relations, Lilach Gilady Reviewed by PAUL MUSGRAVE
The Rise of Global Powers: International Politics in the Era of the World Wars, Anthony D’Agostino Reviewed by PAUL MUSGRAVE
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