Tapline, Welfare Capitalism, and Mass Mobilization in Lebanon, 1950–1964
This chapter examines the politics of the technical and of anti-colonial nationalism in the labor history of the Trans-Arabian pipeline, or Tapline, in Lebanon. It covers the period between 1950, when Tapline was completed, and 1963–1964, when the company’s Lebanese workforce unionized and participated in a successful nationwide strike. After reviewing the purposes Tapline was built to serve, this chapter examines the technical systems that enabled and regulated the flow of oil through the pipeline and the managerial strategy Tapline pursued to prevent worker mobilization that could disrupt those systems. It then shows how Tapline’s Lebanese employees unionized, secured coordinated control over the flow of oil through the pipeline, and used their resulting power to contest the terms of their labor. In doing so, this chapter aims to illustrate the unpredictable ways in which technology distributes agency, and the complex and seemingly contradictory ways in which labor activism engages with the managerial strategies it opposes.