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WCED Lecture. “Learning to Love Oil: Right-Sizing the Resource Curse.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

The first 14 years of the 21st century have seen the study of the “resource curse” grow from a niche question to a major research agenda with multiple outcomes of interest—regime type, regime stability, civil conflict, and economic growth to name a few. However, the current state of conclusions reflects little consensus, making it difficult to develop policy-relevant implications.

This presentation will outline the origins of this lack of consensus in faulty measurement and present context-sensitive indicators for both oil export dependence, or rent leverage, and oil abundance. Smith uses the new measures to explore the effects of oil wealth on political stability. Initial analysis of cross-national data from 1960 to 2009 suggests that rent leverage strongly stabilizes rulers across both time and space. Building on this strong stabilizing effect, Smith argues that scholars should focus on exploring the causal links, and policy makers should consider how best to channel the stabilizing effects rather than to treat a nonexistent curse.

Benjamin Smith, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, teaches undergraduate courses in comparative and Asian politics, ethnicity and nationalism, post-conflict peace building and the politics of modernity, and graduate courses on ethnicity and nationalism and research design. His first book, Hard Times in the Land of Plenty: Oil Politics in Iran and Indonesia, was published in 2007 by Cornell University Press. Smith’s research has been published in World Politics, the American Journal of Political ScienceStudies in Comparative International Development, the Journal of International Affairs, and other journals and edited volumes.

Professor Smith’s research focuses on separatist conflicts, regime change and democratization, and on the politics of resource wealth. He is currently working on a book exploring the long-term factors that shape the success of separatist movements, as well as several article-length projects on redistribution and democratic breakdown (with Dan Slater) and on the politics of oil wealth in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Smith earned his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2002. From 2002 to 2004, he was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.

Benjamin Smith, associate professor of political science, University of Florida