Petroleum Patriarchy? A Response to Ross


Norris, Pippa. 2009. “Petroleum Patriarchy? A Response to Ross.” Politics & Gender 5 (4): 553-560. doi:10.1017/S1743923X09990365.

Author: Pippa Norris


The notion of a “resource curse” has been most commonly applied in explaining why many countries apparently blessed with abundant reserves of nonrenewable mineral resources, such as Nigerian oil, Democratic Republic of Congo gold, or Sierra Leone diamonds, in fact, are commonly blighted with less transparency and probity, economic stability, economic diversification, social equality, and investment in human capital. In these conditions, the heightened danger of state capture and rent seeking by ruling elites generate poorer prospects for the transition from autocracy and the consolidation of stable democracies (Auty 1993; Boix 2003; Dunning 2008; Jensen and Wantchekon 2004; Ross 2001). Lootable mineral resources, in particular, are thought to make a country particularly vulnerable to civil war, insurgency, and rebellion (Collier and Sambanis 2005; Humphreys 2005; Ross 2004, 2006; Snyder 2006).



 “Patriarchal cultures in Arab states did not spring up overnight in the mid-nineteenth century as the result of the discovery and commercial exploitation of refined petroleum; they have enduring historical roots that predate the discovery and production of oil. In the extreme cases of states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where women continue to lack the legal right to vote and to stand for office, it also remains unclear theoretically how any amount of female participation in the labor force will eventually facilitate women’s representation in decision-making.” (556)

“If the oil and gas extraction industries are overwhelmingly male dominated, then so too is the workforce mining gold, diamonds, and copper. Since the extraction and distribution of natural commodities forms a critical part of the economy in many diverse regions of the world, a measure that reflects a more comprehensive basket of these resources would also help to disentangle the complex effects of Muslim religious faith and oil.” (557)

“Therefore, the research literature presents a wealth of evidence that the resource curse can probably be blamed for a multitude of ills, from conflict and civil war to anemic economic growth, corruption, state capture, and the contemporary push-back in Russia and Venezuela against the forces of democratization. But it has not yet been clearly established whether the resource curse, at least petroleum, is a major factor at the heart of the problems concerning the continuing gender disparities in elected office among Arab states.” (559)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Corruption, Democracy / Democratization, Economies, Extractive Industries, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Governance, Livelihoods, Religion, Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 2009

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