This Monday, January 29th from 9 – 10:30 A.M. Dr. Betsy Beasley, Member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, will give a lecture entitled “Expert Capital: Houston and the Making of a Service Empire.” The talk will be held at Burdine 214, and will feature a Q & A period at the end of the event. Dr. Beasley’s lecture is based on her forthcoming project of the same name, under contract with Harvard University Press. Dr. Beasley has provided a short description of her lecture, which you can read below. We hope to see you there!
“What are the environmental, political, and cultural implications of an economy dominated by companies that profit from fossil fuels without actually getting their hands dirty producing them? During the second half of the twentieth century, U.S.-based oil companies faced both domestic and international threats. At home, easily accessible oil reserves sputtered, their supplies in decline, while refinery workers organizing across racial lines challenged corporate power, and new social movements demanded greater environmental responsibility from fossil fuel producers. Abroad, anti-colonial campaigns decades in the making transformed oil-rich colonies into new nations skeptical of the U.S. and committed to nationalizing natural resources. The traditional model of the U.S. oil company–in which a company’s value and profits stemmed from the crude reserves it controlled and the refined fuel it marketed and sold–was in jeopardy. As the oil giants faced uncertainty, oil executives, engineers, and logisticians invented a business strategy to adapt to a new economic, environmental, and political climate. Rather than profit from their direct ownership of oil reserves, they built oilfield services companies that sold their management, engineering, and logistical expertise to oil producers around the world. This talk shows how these white-collar experts created a new market that commodified their self-proclaimed oilfield experience and knowledge. In the process, they diffused the threat of oil industry unionization at home, staved off responsibility for environmental destruction, and made U.S. economic power palatable in a postcolonial world.”