Beyond the resource curse and pipeline conspiracies: Energy as a social relation in the Middle East



Hoffmann C (2018) Beyond the resource curse and pipeline conspiracies: Energy as a social relation in the Middle East. Energy Research and Social Science, 41, pp. 39-47.

This article identifies problematic tendencies in current analyses of the Middle East’s energy relations. All social relations are frequently seen as determined by resource extraction, use and transfer, contributing to the uniquely instable social relations of the Middle East. Social structures despite being energy rich, are seen as incapable to react to old and new geopolitical crises and the effects of global climate change, adding to a picture of chronic underdevelopment and conflict. This article offers an alternative, more optimistic perspective on the Middle East’s energy relations. Privileging the social over the material, calorific, geological or topographic dimensions of energy relations, it argues that social life developed in relation to its natural resources, matter and energy, but is not singularly determined by it. It proposes to historicise and re-politicise the Middle East’s social energy relations, including its nutritional and geopolitical dimensions. Emphasising their dynamic character, energy and its associated infrastructures are subsequently re-defined into political categories, a field of social contestation and change, rather than a limiting biophysical structure. The concept of Social Energy, thus, transforms nature from a constraining externality into an integral part of social analysis and transformation in the Middle East.

Middle East; Energy geopolitics; Social relations; Capitalism

Energy Research and Social Science: Volume 41

Publication date31/07/2018
Publication date online01/05/2018
Date accepted by journal12/04/2018

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Dr Clemens Hoffmann
Dr Clemens Hoffmann

Lecturer in International Politics, Politics