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The Cutting Edge of Accumulation: Neoliberal Risk Mitigation, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline and its Impact



Abstract:  Adopting a historical materialist position, this article looks at new methods deployed to expand processes of accumulation and the impact that this has at different scales. Focusing upon the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline (traversing Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey), the article pays particular attention to the technocratic tools of “social neoliberalism” and corporate social responsibility, which variously incorporate environmental and social impact assessments, community investment programmes and voluntary codes of conduct. While such approaches seek to relegitimise the efforts of capital and its assistants and mitigate their risks, the assessment below details how these approaches actually assist in facilitating an increase in risk for many people. The article begins by looking at the accumulation drive pushing BTC and then provides an account of how new approaches to pipeline governance have both emerged and been incorporated into the project. The article then details what it is that these approaches have actually facilitated at four scales—the local, the national, the regional and the supra-regional.

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