Pivotal Year: the 1973 Oil Shock and its Global Significance

Firenze, 19-21 settembre 2013

Scadenza 15 dicembre 2012

The 1973 oil crisis is considered a rupture point in the late 20th Century. The western world’s post-WWII history is often described as one of continuous if not miraculous growth up to 1973; followed by decades of crisis, slow growth, unemployment and social unrest. Eric Hobsbawm has set a standard for this kind of interpretation in his Age of Extremes: “The history of the twenty years after 1973 is that of a world which has lost its bearings and slid into instability and crisis.”

This description of the quadrupling of oil prices and the oil embargo as something entirely unexpected, an exogenous “shock” to industrialized countries leading to instability and economic crisis can be challenged in many ways. This conference, forty years after the oil shock, aims at assessing the multiple dimensions and the global impact of the energy crisis. Here is a list – by no means exclusive – of the themes that we are interested in:

1. Long-term contextualizations of the “oil shock” in broad historical perspective: how different was the 1973 oil shock from previous economic crises? How should we conceptualize the relationship between energy and history? More specifically, what role did oil producing countries play? What was the difference between the two oil shocks of the 1970s? What were the long-term consequences of the crisis?

2. The oil shock and changing international relations: what was the importance of conflicts in the Middle East in spurring the oil shock? What role did tensions and hierarchies between the West and the Third World play? What was the importance of intra-Western tensions in shaping the crisis and its consequences? How did the shock affect emerging economies and single national stetes?

3. Structural changes to the global economy: what role did multinational oil companies, or non-State actors such as OPEC, play in the crisis, and how did they transform the global economy? How have petrodollars and euromarkets changed the economy? What was the importance of projects such as the New International International Economic Order? What role did the crisis play in the emergence of the International Energy Agency?

4. Cultural and intellectual repercussions: how relevant was the oil shock in spurring debates about the limits to growth? How did it influence the rise of environmentalism and, in turn, how did environmentalism influence the interpretation of the oil shock? In what sense was the oil shock a turning point in shaping debates about the oil peak and criticisms to the growth model?

While the conference is mainly aimed at scholars of international history we also encourage proposals from scholars from different disciplines and with different perspectives.

Please send a paper proposal of no more than 300 words along with a short CV to: oilshock73@gmail.com
The conference language will be English. Travel expenses will be covered and accommodation will be provided.

Organizing Committee: Elisabetta Bini (Università di Roma Tor Vergata), Juan Carlos Boué (Oxford Institute for Energy Studies), Giuliano Garavini (Università di Padova), Helge Pharo (University of Oslo), Monika Phole (State University of NY), Federico Romero (EUI).

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