Victor McFarland, "Oil Powers: A History of the US-Saudi Alliance" (Columbia UP, 2020)

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The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is a critical feature of the modern international system. It binds the global hegemon to a region on the other side of the planet. And it has facilitated capitalist-led globalization. However, as both the US and and Saudi governments have tried to hide the relationship from their respective citizens, it also has been poorly understood.

Victor McFarland, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri, has sorted through the secrecy and head-spinning complexities of the US-Saudi relationship, examining everything from petrodollars to military contracting. His new book, Oil Powers: A History of the US-Saudi Alliance (Columbia University Press) is a testament to that hard work.

In Oil Powers, McFarland, traces the history of the US-Saudi alliance across the twentieth century. He shows how the alliance contributed to financialization; how it helped entrench a world order based on oil; and how it tugged both countries rightward in the 1970s, both in economic and foreign policy. As can be surmised from this sample of the book’s arguments, McFarland makes our contemporary moment a lot more comprehensible.

Dexter Fergie is a PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at dexter.fergie@u.northwestern.edu or on Twitter @DexterFergie.

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