The Economic North–South Divide

The Economic North–South Divide

Six Decades of Unequal Development

Kunibert Raffer and H. W. Singer

The Economic North–South Divide explores the structural roots of the debt crisis and considers the impact of debt management on North–South economic relations, exposing certain double standards that tilt global markets further against the South. Encouraged by recent successful opposition to neoliberalism, the authors finally propose ideas for a world where people seem to matter.

Chapter 8: Oil: Temporarily a Special Case

Kunibert Raffer and H. W. Singer

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics


Crude oil, frequently seen as a special commodity, deserves closer analysis. OPEC and the ‘oil crises’ of the 1970s are still often quoted as an example of Southern pricing power. As mentioned in Chapter 3, these price increases of oil spurred Southern demands for a NIEO as well as attempts to follow the OPEC example by coordinating action of commodity-exporting SCs. OPEC’s price hikes scared the EU into granting unprecedented and unique concessions. Conservative colleagues used to quote OPEC as an example against dependentistas, claiming that the North, too, is dependent, and one would thus have to talk of interdependence rather than dependence. Emmanuel (1980) presented OPEC as an example how unequal exchange was overcome. The drastic fall in oil prices after 1980 changed perceptions, but ‘petrodollars’ are still occasionally singled out as the culprit for the debt crisis of SCs, for the Northern recession in the 1970s and for the end of the Keynesian Consensus. Crude theories about crude oil abound. OIL PRICES UNTIL 1973-4 As mentioned in Chapter 1, the 1973-4 hike did little more than restore the real price of oil in terms of manufactures to what it would have been if it had not deteriorated since the 1950s. This would have been achieved smoothly and without any shock if Keynes’s ideas had been implemented. Although OPEC had been established in 1960, its role was restricted to protesting and demanding higher prices for roughly a decade. It was founded after two unilateral oil price reductions by oil...

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