The Political Institutionalization of Resource-Comparing Practices and the Emergence of a Politics of Energy Development (1950 - 1970))

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:30
Oral Presentation
Daniela RUSS, University of Bielefeld, Germany
When looking at recent developments in climate politics, it cannot be understood without a thorough study of the socio-political constitution of categories and concepts, such as climate, environment, resources, or energy. In this paper I seek to shed some light on the political institutionalization of resource-comparing practices and the emergence of a politics of energy development, which can be considered the precondition of today's political struggels.

Coal resources where for a long time considered one among other vital natural resources. Over the twentieth century, however, coal, petroleum, gas, and water power came to be seen as kinds of the same resource – ‘energy’. This paper explores the emergence and consequences of this new category by examining the sites and practices in which different resources became comparable and compared as ‘energies’: electrification,, vertical and horizontal integration of industries, as well as political regulation of natural resources. By studying the concrete case of ‘energy resources’ this paper also sheds light on the technical, statistical and organizational infrastructures under which resources can appear as being global.

This research draws primarily on archival documents of the World Energy Conference (WEC)) from 1960 - 1980 as well as the UN technical assistance programme in the 1950s; both representing key cases for the socio-political construction of contested categories of today.