Extractive Industries and Development

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    The extractive industries are generally understood to be the mining and petroleum industries. These can be understood as two distinct industries because of significant differences in what Marx would call their forces and relations of production. The extraction of subsurface mineral resources, including coal, involves the construction and operation of mines, which take many different shapes and sizes, but both their construction and their operation need substantial numbers of workers. The extraction of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) is nearly always a large-scale enterprise in the sense that a network of wells, pipelines, and refineries normally entails a capital cost that is much greater than the cost of building a very large mine, but the disparity between the size of the construction workforce and the workforce required to operate such a network is also much larger in the petroleum industry than it is in the mining industry. This helps to explain why anthropologists have written a lot more about the mining industry than they have about the petroleum industry. The mining industry has traditionally produced communities of mine workers who live in the same place for long periods of time, and has done so in many different parts of the world. The petroleum industry has rarely had this effect except in the few countries where it is the dominant form of economic activity. The significance of this difference has been diminishing in the large-scale, capital-intensive form of both industries, but small-scale, labor-intensive forms of mining still have no counterpart in the petroleum sector. Anthropologists are not the only social scientists who have tried to answer questions about the relationship between the extractive industries and the process of “development.” These are also questions for sociologists, geographers, economists, and political scientists. Nor have anthropologists had any monopoly over the use of ethnographic methods to answer such questions. But anthropologists have generally taken a leading role when the subjects of ethnographic study have not been people of European descent.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Anthropology
    Editors Hilary Callan
    Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
    PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Ltd.
    ISBN (Print)9781118924396
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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