Disappearing the Workers: How Labor in the Oil Complex Has Been Made Invisible
The role of labor and class relations in oil has been erased from analysis, commentary, and scholarship since the late 20th century. This chapter examines the reasons for this conspicuous absence in the scholarship, and points out how prevailing analyses construct oil as a commodity without social relations. Taking Iranian oil workers as a case study, the chapter further demonstrates that the social and political impact of oil cannot be analyzed without taking into consideration labor and class relations as integral to oil’s significance as the foundation of contemporary capitalist consumer society.
I am very grateful to Tyler Priest for his generous critical input. I would also like to thank Ervand Abrahamian, Robert Vitalis, Leon Fink, Zachary Lockman, Asef Bayat, and Imre Szeman for their comments. Needless to say, all remaining shortcomings are mine.