A rope made of sand: understanding mechanisms of control over the global oil industry

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of New Brunswick


The focus of my research is to examine the power paradigms that control the price of oil. In most analyses of oil, the point source of power is a given in order to focus analysis on particular aspects of the immensely complicated regulatory structure of the physical oil industry. These studies tend to neglect the nexus at which all of these perspectives meet. My research suggests that the source of power in oil rests in its price. The research I present shows that the modern system of financialization has removed power over the oil price from the stakeholders that once held control. Still, despite the flaws of the historical paradigms, and notwithstanding the fact that financialization has in some ways removed the power of corrupt actors of the past, this is not an ideal solution to the problems of history. I show in my research that the modern paradigm of financialized oil has evolved into an abstract system subject to investor speculation driven price fluctuations. The effects of integrating oil into the financial sector has opened up venues for speculators to gamble with one of the world economy’s most essential commodities, responding to the hype around power centers, new technology, corporate portfolios and performance. My research shows that the implication of the contemporary paradigm has been the shift of physical market stakeholders from their historical role as price setters, to a more defensive position, reacting to the price set by immense flows of financial capital.