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Oil in Venezuela: Triggering Violence or Ensuring Stability? A Context-sensitive Analysis of the Ambivalent Impact of Resource Abundance


  • Annegret Mähler

    () (GIGA Institute of Global and Area Studies)


This paper studies the causal factors that make the oil-state Venezuela, which is generally characterized by a low level of violence, an outlier among the oil countries as a whole. It applies a newly elaborated “context approach” that systematically considers domestic and international contextual factors. To test the results of the systematic analysis, two periods with a moderate increase in internal violence in Venezuela are subsequently analyzed, in the second part of the paper, from a comparative-historical perspective. The findings demonstrate that oil, in interaction with fluctuating non-resource-specific contextual conditions, has had ambiguous effects: On the one hand, oil has explicitly served as a conflict-reducing and partly democracy-promoting factor, principally through large-scale socioeconomic redistribution, widespread clientelistic structures, and corruption. On the other hand, oil has triggered violence—primarily through socioeconomic causal mechanisms (central keywords: decline of oil abundance and resource management) and secondarily through the long-term degradation of political institutions. While clientelism and corruption initially had a stabilizing effect, in the long run they exacerbated the delegitimization of the traditional political elite. Another crucial finding is that the impact and relative importance of oil with respect to the increase in violence seems to vary significantly depending on the specific subtype of violence.

Suggested Citation

  • Annegret Mähler, 2009. "Oil in Venezuela: Triggering Violence or Ensuring Stability? A Context-sensitive Analysis of the Ambivalent Impact of Resource Abundance," GIGA Working Paper Series 112, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:112

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anne D. Boschini & Jan Pettersson & Jesper Roine, 2007. "Resource Curse or Not: A Question of Appropriability," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 109(3), pages 593-617, September.
    2. Matthias Basedau & Jann Lay, 2009. "Resource Curse or Rentier Peace? The Ambiguous Effects of Oil Wealth and Oil Dependence on Violent Conflict," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 46(6), pages 757-776, November.
    3. Michael L. Ross, 2004. "What Do We Know about Natural Resources and Civil War?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 41(3), pages 337-356, May.
    4. Matthias Basedau & Wolfram Lacher, 2006. "A Paradox of Plenty? Rent Distribution and Political Stability in Oil States," GIGA Working Paper Series 21, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    5. Mark F. Giordano & Meredith A. Giordano & Aaron T. Wolf, 2005. "International Resource Conflict and Mitigation," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 42(1), pages 47-65, January.
    6. Fearon, James D, 2003. "Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 195-222, June.
    7. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Varigonda, Kesava Chandra, 2013. "An assessment of the impact of energy insecurity on state stability in India," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1110-1119.

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    Venezuela; natural resources; oil; political economy; violence; contextual sensitivity;

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