Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Power Grab
Political Survival through Extractive Resource Nationalization

$105.00 (C)

Part of Business and Public Policy

  • Date Published: April 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108478892

$ 105.00 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • For rulers whose territories are blessed with extractive resources - such as petroleum, metals, and minerals that will power the clean energy transition - converting natural wealth into fiscal wealth is key. Squandering the opportunity to secure these revenues will guarantee short tenures, while capitalizing on windfalls and managing the resulting wealth will fortify the foundations of enduring rule. This book argues that leaders nationalize extractive resources to extend the duration of their power. By taking control of the means of production and establishing state-owned enterprises, leaders capture revenues that might otherwise flow to private firms, and use this increased capital to secure political support. Using a combination of case studies and cross-national statistical analysis with novel techniques, Mahdavi sketches the contours of a crucial political gamble: nationalize and reap immediate gains while risking future prosperity, or maintain private operations, thereby passing on revenue windfalls but securing long-term fiscal streams.

    • Proposes a new theory on the rise and fall of political leaders in extractive-resource economies, providing insights into modern political paradoxes, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela
    • Combines statistical analysis with interviews and archival records on national oil companies, offering evidence from multiple perspectives for readers versed in either quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method approaches
    • Unpacks the opaque politics surrounding state-owned enterprises and will appeal to readers interested in learning deep insights about the world's largest companies
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘Political survival is essential to rulers. In this thoughtful and far-ranging new book, Paasha Mahdavi shows exactly how rulers use control over energy and mining companies to advance their own political survival – often at the peril of their own people and the planet.' David Victor, University of California, San Diego

    'Challenging conventional understandings of resource nationalization as the domain of strong rulers whose tenures are secure, Paasha Mahdavi carefully maps out and then demonstrates how much nationalization is in fact a strategy borne of political insecurity. Power Grab deftly weaves cross-national econometrics and carefully crafted comparative historical analysis to show how. Mahdavi’s analysis of the domestic and global-economic milieu in which leaders like Qaddafi gambled on, and won through, resource seizures, represents an ambitious and formidable new scholarly voice in the study of resource politics.' Benjamin Smith, University of Florida

    'Mahdavi's Power Grab offers perhaps the most comprehensive and sophisticated analysis of oil nationalisation and re-nationalisation to date. By focusing on political leaders' perceptions of their probability of survival in oil rich states, it identifies an important paradox in the decision to nationalize: weaker leaders nationalize to bolster their power and become stronger as a result due to greater access to oil revenues, and yet, strong leaders opt not to nationalize, which serves to weaken their power by limiting their access to oil revenue. Power Grab thus offers important insight into the relationship between state ownership of the oil sector and regime survival.' Pauline Jones, Director, International Institute, University of Michigan

    'This is a very interesting and provocative book on a timely and important topic. It should be read with great interest by academics, policymakers, and students. It speaks to issues that concern comparative political science, international relations, industrial organization, and macroeconomics. The best part about it is that it transcends stale debates about whether there is or is not a resource curse; rather, Mahdavi looks at the causes and consequences of state run oil companies with fresh eyes and exploits original data to make a truly nuanced argument. In doing so, he has really pushed the ball forward and, hopefully, opened up a new research agenda. Bravo!' Victor Menaldo, University of Washington

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108478892
    • length: 274 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus. 16 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The puzzle of extractive resource nationalization
    2. The theory of political survival through nationalization
    3. Defining and measuring operational nationalization
    4. Why nationalize? Evidence from national oil companies around the world
    5. NOCs, oil revenues, and leadership survival
    6. The dynamics of nationalization in Pahlavi Iran
    7. Conclusion: the implications of nationalization.

  • Author

    Paasha Mahdavi, University of California, Santa Barbara
    Paasha Mahdavi is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research on energy governance and political economy has appeared in Comparative Political Studies, Nature Energy, and World Politics, among other journals, and has received media attention from The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Mahdavi earned his M.S. in Statistics and his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has held fellowships at the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy, the Payne Institute, and the World Economic Forum, and currently serves as Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.