Proposal preview

Power and principles. The political economy of natural resources since 1870.

Since at least 1870 the industrialized countries have assumed a right to access the natural resources in underdeveloped territories under the tangled banners of civilization, progress, and development. This notion of a ‘global colonial commons’ for which there were competing demands for access at multiple levels, for long underpinned the international political economy of natural resources. The era of decolonization set in motion a powerful counter-reaction, and the spirit of the New International Economic Order became embodied in the demand for absolute national sovereignty over natural resources in the producer countries. This emboldened resource-rich states to engage anew in experiments with discriminatory concession and tax regimes, state ownership or outright nationalization. Paradoxically, national control gained recognition as a principle of international law just as new set of trans-national and multi-scalar challenges became pressing, e.g. pollution, resource depletion and market failures. Furthermore, it reinvigorated the idea of international commodity agreements as a means to improve the workings of the market by the way of buffer stocks, supposedly in the interest of both producers and consumers. This panel explores the role of ideational, political, and legal frameworks for resource regulation and management across the globe in a long-term perspective. It looks at the reification of resource sovereignty as a response to global forces and a barrier to common solutions, as well as efforts to establish a new multilateral liberal regime under the condition of sovereign states also in the Global South.


  • Mats Ingulstad, Norwegian University of Science and Technology,, Norway
  • Hans Otto Frøland, Norwegian University of Science and Technology,, Norway

Session members

  • Martin Chick , University of Edinburgh,
  • Andreas Sanders, European University Institute,
  • Andrew Perchard, Coventry University,
  • Glen O'Hara, Oxford Brookes,
  • Lucas Lixinski, University of New South Wales,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Einar Lie, University of Oslo,