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Identity in Democracy
Exporting Security
Stones of Contention
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Oil, Illiberalism, and WarOil, Illiberalism, and War

An Analysis of Energy and US Foreign Policy

Andrew T. Price-Smith

Narrated by Douglas McDonald

Available from Audible

Book published by The MIT Press

The United States is addicted to crude oil. In this book, Andrew Price-Smith argues that this addiction has distorted the conduct of American foreign policy in profound and malign ways, resulting in interventionism, exploitation, and other illiberal behaviors that hide behind a facade of liberal internationalism. The symbiotic relationship between the state and the oil industry has produced deviations from rational foreign energy policy, including interventions in Iraq and elsewhere that have been (at the very least) counterproductive or (at worst) completely antithetical to national interests.

Liberal internationalism casts the United States as a benign hegemon, guaranteeing security to its allies during the Cold War and helping to establish collaborative international institutions. Price-Smith argues for a reformulation of liberal internationalism (which he terms shadow liberalism) that takes into account the dark side of American foreign policy. Price-Smith contends that the “free market” in international oil is largely a myth, rendered problematic by energy statism and the rise of national oil companies. He illustrates the destabilizing effect of oil in the Persian Gulf, and describes the United States' grand energy strategy, particularly in the Persian Gulf, as illiberal at its core, focused on the projection of power and on periodic bouts of violence. Washington’s perennial oscillation between liberal phases of institution building and provision of public goods and illiberal bellicosity, Price-Smith argues, represents the shadow liberalism that is at the core of US foreign policy.

Andrew T. Price-Smith is Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at Colorado College. He is the author of The Health of Nations and Contagion and Chaos.


“Andrew Price-Smith offers a strikingly original interpretation of US foreign policy. Challenging realists and liberal internationalists alike, he argues that the liberal American-led postwar international order is paradoxically grounded in a set of decidedly illiberal practices, particularly in the energy realm. This ‘shadow liberal’ perspective merits serious attention by those who would seek to make sense of and to shape the evolving international system”

—John S. Duffield, Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University

“As international commerce has grown, and increasingly come to be governed by the liberal trading regime of the WTO, one major sector—oil—remains defiantly subject to raw state interest and power politics. In Oil, Illiberalism, and War Andrew Price-Smith exposes the illiberal logics of the international energy order, and the surprising roles of US foreign policy in its struggles. This volume is required reading for both scholarly debates and public conversations about global political economics.”

—Daniel Deudney, Associate Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

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University Press Audiobooks