The Politics of Oil-Producer Cooperation

By Dag Harald Claes | Go to book overview

6
Country Case I: Saudi Arabia—
A Hegemonic Power
The aim of this chapter is to answer the following question: To what extent has cooperation between oil producers been achieved by Saudi Arabia's performing as a hegemonic power in the international oil market?The hegemonic role of Saudi Arabia was one of the most prominent features of the oil-producer cooperation, and thus the oil market, during the seventies and eighties. It is the conventional wisdom that Saudi Arabia holds the key to the success of OPEC and is, in fact, the most influential actor in the oil market. The argument presented in this chapter does not dispute this. However, some qualifications should be made. Two important factors are considered to constrain the Saudi Arabian role as a hegemonic power: changes in the market structure; and the Saudi Arabian regime's preoccupation with security, both internal and external. The underlying features of these aspects were described in Chapters 2 and 3, and will be taken as given in the discussion in this chapter. By focusing on one actor, it is possible to study how oil interests and security interests interact in the formation of a state's policy.The empirical discussion in this chapter tries to capture the dynamic character of the Saudi Arabian hegemony. Accordingly, four different phases will be outlined:
1. the period from 1973 to 1981, when Saudi Arabia sought to influence the oil policy of the other OPEC members but was unable to do so (see section 6.3)
2. the period from 1981 to 1985, when Saudi Arabia carried a disproportional share of the costs in order to provide the collective good—a higher oil price (see section 6.4)
3. the period from 1985 to the present, when Saudi Arabia first coerced the other OPEC members to change their market strategy in

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