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Iran‘s Oil Wealth: Treasure and Trouble for the Shah‘s Regime. A Context-sensitive Analysis of the Ambivalent Impact of Resource Abundance

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  • Miriam Shabafrouz

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    (GIGA Institute of Global and Area Studies)

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    Abstract

    The Iranian revolution still appears to be a puzzle for theoretical approaches linking political instability and/or violent conflict to the resource wealth of a country. It therefore works well as a case study for the purposes of this paper: to show the necessity of a broader approach to the resource-violence link and to highlight the “context approach.” The focus is on the violence that accompanied the events preceding the revolution, and also on the fact that this violence was mainly exercised by the rulers and—excluding the activities of militant groups—only very randomly by the masses. Many relevant contextual conditions had an impact on the downfall of the shah’s regime: demographic (population growth, urbanization) and cultural factors (religious tradition, national identity); the vivid memory of several historical events; the personal preferences of central actors— mainly both the shahs—which in combination brought the country to an impasse; and the religious opposition to the regime. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear that many of those factors were influenced by resource-specific conditions such as the amount and the use of oil income, sudden oil-price drops, and external interference aimed mainly at the domination of the oil sector. It was the specific interplay of these and other contextual conditions—as much resource-specific as general, and both within the country and on an international scale—that finally brought about the downfall of the regime.

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    File URL: http://repec.giga-hamburg.de/pdf/giga_09_wp113_shabafrouz.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies in its series GIGA Working Paper Series with number 113.

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    Length: 40 pages
    Date of creation: Nov 2009
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:113

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    Keywords: Iran; oil; revolution; resource curse; rentier state theory; context approach;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

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    1. Jonathan Di John, 2007. "Oil abundance and violent political conflict: A critical assessment," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(6), pages 961-986.
    2. Sachs, Jeffrey D. & Warner, Andrew M., 2001. "The curse of natural resources," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 827-838, May.
    3. Christa N. Brunnschweiler & Erwin Bulte, 2008. "Natural Resources and Violent Conflict: Resource Abundance, Dependence and the Onset of Civil Wars," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 08/78, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    4. Boschini, Anne & Pettersson, Jan & Roine, Jesper, 2003. "Resource curse or not: A question of appropriability," Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 534, Stockholm School of Economics.
    5. Brunnschweiler, Christa N. & Bulte, Erwin H., 2008. "The resource curse revisited and revised: A tale of paradoxes and red herrings," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 248-264, May.
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