Weathering the Crisis

Oil, Financialization, and Socio-Ecological Turbulence since the 1970s


  • Roberto Ortiz California State University, Long Beach



Financialization, Oil, Petrodollars, Crisis, World-System, World-Ecology


This article unpacks the relational nexus between financialization and energy—in this case oil—that shaped the 1970s world-economic crisis and that is again central in the convergence between climate change and accumulation crises. Focusing on these critical moments when profitable opportunities for capital narrow and the world-system enters a period of turbulence, I explain the ways in which energy and finance have been central in crisis formation and, in turn, in capitalists’ search for ways out of crises. Starting with a discussion of the 1970s global conjuncture, I explain the role of the “energy crisis” in the first general recession of post-World War II era. I show how the oil price hike of the early 1970s—which compounded the core’s accumulation crisis while also representing a challenge to unequal trade by dramatically revaluing a key global South export—was channeled into fuel for global North financial accumulation via petrodollar recycling and global South debt. Building on this history, I provide a brief examination of this nexus between finance and energy in the ongoing climate crisis. Today the global capitalist class profits from continuing fossil-fueled accumulation and, increasingly, from the grafting of financial instruments onto socio-ecological disruptions.


Adelman, M. A. 1995. The Genie Out of the Bottle. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Alonso, Angela, and Débora Maciel. 2010. “From Protest to Professionalization: Brazilian Environmental Activism After Rio-92.” The Journal of Environment & Development 19(3): 300–317.

Amin, Samir. 1976. Unequal development. Sussex, UK: The Harvester Press.

Amin, Samir, Giovanni Arrighi, Andre Gunder Frank, and Immanuel Wallerstein. 1982. Dynamics of Global Crisis. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Arrighi, Giovanni. 1990. “The Developmentalist Illusion: A Reconceptualization of the Semiperiphery.” Pp. 11–42 in Semiperipheral States in the World-Economy, edited by W. G. Martin. New York: Greenwood Press.

______. 1994. The Long Twentieth Century. New York: Verso.

______. 2007. Adam Smith in Beijing. New York: Verso.

Arrighi, Giovanni, Beverly J. Silver, and Benjamin D Brewer. 2003. “Industrial Convergence, Globalization, and the Persistence of the North-South Divide.” Studies in Comparative International Development 38(1): 3–31.

Bazdresch, Carlos, and Levy Santiago. 1991. “Populism and Economic Policy in Mexico, 1970–1982.” Pp. 223–259 in The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America, edited by R. Dornbusch and S. Edwards. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bina, Cyrus. 1985. The Economics of the Oil Crisis. London, UK: Merlin Press.

Bolt, Jutta, and Jan Luiten van Zanden. 2014. “The Maddison Project: Collaborative Research on Historical National Accounts.” Economic History Review 67(3): 627–651.

Brenner, Robert. 2006. The Economics of Global Turbulence. New York: Verso.

British Petroleum. 2018. Statistical Review of World Energy 2018. London, UK: BP.

Carneiro, Ricardo. 2004. Desenvolvimento em Crise. Campinas, Brazil: Editora de Unicamp.

Carrillo, Jorge, and Patricia García. 1987. “Etapas Industriales y Conflictos Laborales: la Industria Automotriz en México.” Estudios Sociológicos 5(14): 303–340.

Castro, Antonio Barros de, and Francisco Eduardo Pires de Souza. 1985. A Economia Brasileira em Marcha Forçada. São Paulo, Brazil: Paz e Terra.

Copley, Michael, Rebecca Hersher, and Nathan Rott. 2023. “How Climate Change Could Cause a Home Insurance Meltdown.” National Public Radio, July 22.

Coronil, Fernando. 1997. The Magical State. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Derluguian, Georgi. 2005. Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dietrich, Christopher. 2017. Oil Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Duménil, Gérard, and Dominique Lévy. 2004a. Capital Resurgent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

______. 2004b. “The Real and Financial Components of Profitability.” Review of Radical Political Economics 36(1): 82–110.

Durand, Cédric. 2017. Fictitious Capital. New York: Verso.

Elliott, Brian. 2016. Natural Catastrophe. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.

Emmanuel, Arghiri. 1972. Unequal Exchange. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Erten, Bilge, and Ocampo, José A. 2012. “Super-Cycles of Commodity Prices since the Mid-Nineteenth Century.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, DESA Working Paper No. 110.

Ferrando, Tomaso, Gabriela De Oliveira Junqueira, Marcela Vecchione-Gonçalves, Iagê Miola, Fávio Marques Prol, and Hector Herrera. 2021. “Capitalizing on Green Debt: A World-Ecology Analysis of Green Bonds in the Brazilian Forestry Sector.” Journal of World-Systems Research 27(2): 410–438.

Fiege, Mark. 2012. The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Foran, John. 1993. Fragile Resistance. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Frey, R. Scott, Paul. K. Gellert, and Harry F. Dahms. 2019. Ecologically Unequal Exchange. London, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.

Galeano, Eduardo. 1973. Open Veins of Latin America. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Griffith-Jones, Stephanie, and Osvaldo Sunkel. 1986. Debt and Development Crises in Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hanieh, Adam. 2021a. “Petrochemical Empire: The Geo-Politics of Fossil-Fueled Production” New Left Review 130: 25–51.

______. 2021b. “The Commodities Fetish? Financialization and Finance Capital in the US Oil Industry.” Historical Materialism 29(4): 70–113.

Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

______. 2010. The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis of Capitalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hobsbawm, Eric. 1996. The Age of Extremes. New York: Vintage Books.

Huber, Matt. 2013. Lifeblood. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Kagarlitsky, Boris. 2007. Empire of the Periphery. London, UK: Pluto Press.

Kamin, Debra. 2023. “Home Insurance Premiums Rise as Americans Flock to Weather-Worn States.” New York Times, May 5.

Klein, Naomi. 2008. The Shock Doctrine. New York: Metropolitan Books.

______. 2014. This Changes Everything. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kotkin, Stephen. 2010. “The Kiss of Debt: The East Bloc Goes Borrowing.” Pp. 81–93 in The Shock of the Global, edited by N. Ferguson, C. S. Maier, E. Manela, and D. J. Sargent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Krippner, Greta. 2011. Capitalizing on Crisis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Labban, Mazen. 2010. “Oil in Parallax: Scarcity, Markets, and the Financialization of Accumulation.” Geoforum 41(4): 541–552.

Landsberg, Martin. 1975. “Black Gold and the Re-emergence of the Dollar Standard.” Review of Radical Political Economics 7(1): 69–78.

______. 1976. “Oil and the Eurocurrency Market: Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire.” Review of Radical Political Economics 8(4): 42–55.

Li, Minqi. 2021. “China: Imperialism or Semi-Periphery?” Monthly Review 73(3): 47–74.

Lohmann, Larry. 2012. “Financialization, Commodification and Carbon: The Contradictions of Neoliberal Climate Policy.” Pp. 85–107 in Socialist Register 2012, edited by L. Panitch, G. Albo, and V. Chibber. London, UK: Merlin Press.

Longhofer, Wesley, Evan Schofer, Natasha Miric, and David John Frank. 2016. “NGOs, INGOs, and Environmental Policy Reform, 1970–2010.” Social Forces 94(4): 1743–1768.

Maito, Esteban E. 2013. “La Transitoriedad Histórica del Capital: la Tendencia Descendente de la Tasa de Ganancia desde el Siglo XIX.” Razón y Revolución 26: 129–159.

Mandel, Ernest. 1978. The Second Slump. London, UK: New Left Books.

Mann, Geoff, and Joel Wainwright. 2018. Climate Leviathan. New York: Verso.

Martinez Alier, Joan. 1997. “Deuda Ecológica y Deuda Externa.” Ecología Política 14: 157–173.

Marx, Karl. [1867] 1976. Capital, Vol. 1. New York: Penguin Books.

McNally, David. 2011. Global Slump. Oakland, CA: PM Press.

McNeill, J. R. 2010. “The Environment, Environmentalism, and International Society in the Long 1970s.” Pp. 263–278 in The Shock of the Global, edited by N. Ferguson, C. S. Maier, E. Manela, and D. J. Sargent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

McNeill, J.R., and Peter Engelke. 2014. The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Mitchell, Timothy. 2011. Carbon Democracy. New York: Verso.

Mommer, Bernard. 2002. Global Oil and the Nation State. New York: Oxford University Press.

Moore, Jason. 2010a. “The End of the Road? Agricultural Revolutions in the Capitalist World-Ecology, 1450–2010.” Journal of Agrarian Change 10(3): 389–413.

______. 2010b. “Cheap Food and Bad Money: Food, Frontiers, and Financialization in the Rise and Demise of Neoliberalism.” Review 33(2/3): 225–261.

______. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life. London, UK: Verso.

Ocampo, José A. 2004. “La América Latina y la Economía Mundial en el Largo Siglo XX.” El Trimestre Económico 71(284): 725–786.

Ocampo, José A. 2013. “The Latin American Debt Crisis in Historical Perspective.” Paper presented at the International Economic Association Project on Debt Crises and Resolution, March 25.

Ominami, Carlos. 1986. Le Tiers Monde dans la Crise. Paris, France: La Découverte.

Ominami, Carlos, and Ricardo Hausmann. 1985. “Crisis e Internacionalización.” El Trimestre Económico 52(206): 411–463.

Ortiz, Roberto J. 2020a. “Oil-Fueled Accumulation in Late Capitalism: Energy, Uneven Development, and Climate Crisis.” Critical Historical Studies 7(2): 205–240.

______. 2020b. “Financialization, Climate Change, and the Future of the Capitalist World-Ecology: On Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140.” Soundings 103(2): 264–285.

Parboni, Ricardo. 1986. “The Dollar Weapon: From Nixon to Reagan.” New Left Review I(158): 5–18.

Podobnik, Bruce. 2008. Global Energy Shift. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Pollin, Robert and James Heintz. 2011. “How Wall Street Speculation is Driving Up Gasoline Prices Today.” Political Economy Research Institute Research Brief, June 21.

Roberts, J. Timmons, and Bradley C. Parks. 2007a. “Fueling Injustice: Globalization, Ecologically Unequal Exchange and Climate Change.” Globalizations 4(2): 193–210.

______. 2007b. A Climate of Injustice. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Salazar-Carrillo, Jorge, and Bernadette West. 2004. Oil and Development of Venezuela during the 20th Century. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Sargent, Daniel J. 2010. “The United States and Globalization in the 1970s.” Pp. 49–64 in The Shock of the Global, edited by N. Ferguson, C. S., E. Manela and D. J. Sargent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Shaikh, Anwar. 1999. “Explaining the Global Crisis.” Historical Materialism 5(1): 103–144.

Silver, Beverly J. 2003. Forces of Labor. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, Jackie, Basak Gemici, Samantha Plummer, and Melanie M. Hughes. 2018. “Transnational Social Movement Organizations and Counter-Hegemonic Struggles Today.” Journal of World-Systems Research 24(2): 372–403.

Soener, Matthew. 2019. “Profiting in a Warming World: Investigating the Link Between Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Capitalist Profitability in OECD States.” Sociological Forum (34)4: 974–998.

Soener, Matthew. 2022. “Financialization Goes South: Foreign Capital Flows and Financial Accumulation in Emerging Markets.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology, OnLine First.

Spiro, David S. 1999. The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Sunkel, Osvaldo, and Luciano Tomassini. 1980. “Los Factores Ambientales y el Cambio en las Relaciones Internacionales de los Países en Desarrollo.” Pp. 288–319 in Estilos de Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente en la América Latina, edited by O. Sunkel and N. Gligo. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Tsui, Sit, He Zhixiong, and Yan Xiaohui. 2021. “Legacies of Definancialization and Defending Real Economy in China.” Monthly Review 73(3): 31–46.

UNCTAD. 2020. World Investment Report. New York: United Nations Publications.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. 1982. USSR: Measures of Economic Growth and Development, 1950–1980. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2022. “Oil and Petroleum Products Explained: Oil Imports and Exports.” Retrieved November 10, 2022

Vasudevan, Ramaa. 2009a. “Dollar Hegemony, Financialization, and the Credit Crisis.” Review of Radical Political Economics 41(3): 291–304.

______. 2009b. “From the Gold Standard to the Floating Dollar Standard: An Appraisal in the Light of Marx’s Theory of Money.” Review of Radical Political Economics 41(4): 473–491.

Vitalis, Robert. 2020. Oilcraft. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Wacquant, Loïc. 2001. “Deadly Symbiosis: When Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh.” Punishment & Society 3(1): 95–133.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1974. The Modern World-System I. New York: Academic Press.

______. 1995. Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization. New York: Verso.

______. 2006. “The Curve of American Power.” New Left Review 40: 77–94.

Wellum, Caleb. 2020. “Energizing Finance: The Energy Crisis, Oil Futures, and Neoliberal Narratives.” Enterprise & Society 21(1): 2–37.

World Bank. 1983. World Development Report 1983. New York: World Bank.

______. 1986. World Development Report 1986. New York: World Bank.

______. 1991. World Development Report 1986. New York: World Bank.

______. 1992. World Development Report 1986. New York: World Bank.

______. 2022a. International Debt Statistics.

______. 2022b. World Development Indicators.




How to Cite

Ortiz, R. (2023). Weathering the Crisis: Oil, Financialization, and Socio-Ecological Turbulence since the 1970s. Journal of World-Systems Research, 29(2), 431–456.