MESA Banner
Oil and Contention: Fuel Subsidy Cuts and Protests in Iran 2019
The rentier state literature maintains that oil revenues are a source of stability for authoritarian regimes. In contrast, we argue that oil extraction may generate grievances in oil-producing regions that are conducive to protest through three mechanisms: (a) oil extraction causes environmental degradation; (b) locals in oil cities feel that even though their area is a source of revenue for the state or oil companies directly, they do not observe benefits from such revenues; (c) the segregationist and segmentationist practices of employment by the oil sector generate a strong perception of inequality between the locals and the oil personnel in oil cities. In this article, we focus on the case of a fuel subsidy cuts in Iran in 2019, which triggered the most geographically widespread wave of protest in the country since the 1979 revolution to that date. Through a mixed method design, first, we present a repeated event history analysis of the protests in Iran in 2019 with original data on protest locations and sites of oil extraction that confirms a positive and statistically meaningful association between oil and protest. Second, we present a case study of the city of Mahshahr to illustrate the mechanisms identified in our argument.
Geographic Area
Sub Area