Making Use of the “Oil Weapon”: Western Industrialized Countries and Arab Petropolitics in 1973–1974




A thorough understanding of the Arab oil-embargo and production cuts of 1973/74 is obscured by attempts to determine its “success“ or “failure“ on the basis of a simplistic sender/target model. By contrast, this article analyzes the embargo as a communicative process and explores how both the embargoing and the embargoed countries constantly tried to define the contents, purpose, and legitimacy of the measures. Apart from its initially stated goal of pressuring the United States, Western Europe, and Japan to support the Arab countries in the conflict with Israel, various actors in the Arab as well as in the Western world used the embargo for a multitude of different purposes. Their largely symbolic interaction is not secondary for an understanding of the historical significance of the embargo, but the attempts to make use of the “oil-weapon” constituted its very meaning.