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Geology and world politics: mineral resource appraisals as tools of geopolitical calculation, 1919-1939


Westermann, Andrea (2015). Geology and world politics: mineral resource appraisals as tools of geopolitical calculation, 1919-1939. Historical Social Research - Historische Sozialforschung, 40(2):151-173.

Abstract

How is nature transformed into natural resources? Histories analyzing the state sciences of agriculture and forestry in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries showed that these sciences redefined nature as natural resources by making them amenable to cameralistic calculation, bookkeeping and accountability. Against this background, my first line of inquiry is exploring how, over the twentieth century, nonfuel mineral resource appraisals, i.e. attempts to quantify the metal content of the earth’s crust, became the first hold that societies took on earth matters, transforming them into mineral resources. My second objective is to describe and explain a widening of scope. Around 1900, geologists and other mineral resource experts began to appraise minerals on a global scale and survey trends in the worldwide production and consumption of minerals. I argue that, after World War I, states started to use global mineral resource appraisals as tools of geopolitical calculation, aimed at measuring and managing both natural resources and state power relations. The global perspective was only one reason why mineral resources became amenable to economic and political management on a vast scale, though. In addition, global mineral resource supply and estimates had to be cast and discussed in an explicitly functionalist language in order to fit the interwar technocratic ideas of planning and maintaining world order.

Abstract

How is nature transformed into natural resources? Histories analyzing the state sciences of agriculture and forestry in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries showed that these sciences redefined nature as natural resources by making them amenable to cameralistic calculation, bookkeeping and accountability. Against this background, my first line of inquiry is exploring how, over the twentieth century, nonfuel mineral resource appraisals, i.e. attempts to quantify the metal content of the earth’s crust, became the first hold that societies took on earth matters, transforming them into mineral resources. My second objective is to describe and explain a widening of scope. Around 1900, geologists and other mineral resource experts began to appraise minerals on a global scale and survey trends in the worldwide production and consumption of minerals. I argue that, after World War I, states started to use global mineral resource appraisals as tools of geopolitical calculation, aimed at measuring and managing both natural resources and state power relations. The global perspective was only one reason why mineral resources became amenable to economic and political management on a vast scale, though. In addition, global mineral resource supply and estimates had to be cast and discussed in an explicitly functionalist language in order to fit the interwar technocratic ideas of planning and maintaining world order.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of History
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:22 May 2015 15:31
Last Modified:28 May 2016 07:19
Publisher:Klett-Cotta
ISSN:0173-2145
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.12759/hsr.40.2015.2.151-173
Related URLs:http://opac.nebis.ch/F/?local_base=NEBIS&CON_LNG=GER&func=find-b&find_code=SYS&request=010414990 (Library Catalogue)
http://www.gesis.org/hsr/aktuelle-ausgaben/aktuelle-hefte/402-climate-and-beyond/

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