State of Nature: The Politics of Water in the Making of Saudi Arabia

Toby C. Jones

in Water on Sand

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199768677
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979608 | DOI:
State of Nature: The Politics of Water in the Making of Saudi Arabia

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Oil and the great wealth it generated over the twentieth century profoundly shaped Saudi Arabia's political system. Oil revenues allowed the Al Saud, the kingdom's ruling family, to consolidate their grip on power, protect themselves from domestic political challenges, and build a modern state in the Arabian Peninsula. That Saudi Arabia is one of the world's most powerful petro-states, a state whose stability and authority depends on the abundance of a single natural resource, is well known. But the importance of the environment to politics and power in Saudi Arabia transcends oil. Equally important to the making of modern Saudi Arabia was water, a resource as scarce in Arabia as oil was abundant. While oil wealth enabled the consolidation of Saudi political authority, the use of that wealth to conquer, control, and develop water also profoundly shaped politics and the political order. This chapter examines Saudi Arabia's efforts to master its scarce water resources, the role that oil and the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) played in those efforts, and the impact of these endeavors on environmental politics and power. It was largely through these efforts that the Saudi state and its autocratic character were forged.

Keywords: Saudi Arabia; water; oil; Karl Twitchell; United States; Aramco; development; environmental expertise; redistributive politics; 'Abd Al-'Aziz Ibn Saud

Chapter.  9001 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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