Volume 1, Number 2 (2008)

Contradiction of space, centralization of capital, and the hybrid state oil company: the case of Russia

Mazen Labban

University of Miami


A new species of capital has emerged from the development of inter-capitalist competition in the oil industry. Oil-producing states have fused with financial and productive/extractive capital, foreign and domestic, into hybrid state oil companies. These are centralized monopolies that transcend the historical geographical opposition between private transnational oil companies and national oil companies. As partially nationalized state monopolies, they allow oil-producing states access to global capital markets, while retaining the control of the state over the flow of foreign capital into the domestic oil industry. They thus mediate the contradiction between the integration of capital at the transnational level and its territorial fragmentation at the national scale, only to internalize it in the process. I examine this process in the case of the ongoing consolidation of the Russian oil industry under state control, focusing on two inter-related contradictions: an attempt by the Russian state to liberalize the oil industry, yet shield it against the expansion and control of foreign oil companies; and the dependence of the state on foreign financial capital in the very process of consolidating control over the oil industry.