War, Work & Want: How the OPEC Oil Crisis unleased Revolution and Mass Migration

Mer, 02/22/2023 - 12:30 / 13:30

205AB, Viale Romania

Speaker: Randall Hansen , University of Toronto


Today, global migration is at a historic high of over 280 million people. It has transformed global and domestic politics. Such mass migration is not only unprecedented; it is – at least in the global north – unexpected and unwanted. Publics across Europe, North America, and Asia oppose immigration, and events in the early 1970s – the end of the postwar boom, policy restrictions in Europe and America – should have led to a stagnation or decline in migration. Instead, global migration has tripled in absolute terms and increased by 1.2% of world population in real ones. The paper asks why.  It argues that economic and geopolitical changes unleashed by the OPEC oil crisis led to an unanticipated surge in global migration. Economically, OPEC halved growth rates in the West, and wages have stagnated for five decades. In response, consumers rebuilt their standard of living on the back of cheap migrant labor. At the same time, OPEC flooded the Middle East, Russia, and Iran with oil money, destabilizing Tehran, ushering in the Iranian Revolution, and contributing to Moscow’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and to the two Gulf Wars. In the non-oil producing states, Egypt and Syria, OPEC-induced inflation put the last nail in the coffin of Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI), forced a turn to neo-liberalism, and led to inequality, mass protests and, eventually, civil war. The result of these parallel economic and geopolitical developments was 115 million unexpected or unwanted migrants.

About the speaker

Randall Hansen, MPhil, DPhil (Oxon) is Director of the Global Migration Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Political Science. He works on migration & citizenship, eugenics & population policy, and the effect of war on civilian populations.

His published works include War, Work, and Want: How the OPEC Oil Crisis Generated Revolution & Mass Migration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2023); Fire & Fury: the Allied Bombing of Germany and Japan (London: Faber, 2020);  Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance after July 20, 1944 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), Sterilized by the State: Eugenics, Race and the Population Scare in 20th Century North America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Fire & Fury: the Allied Bombing of Germany (New York: Penguin, 2009), and Citizenship and Immigration in Post-War Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). He has also co-edited Immigration and Public Opinion in Liberal Democracies (with David Leal and Gary P. Freeman) (New York: Routledge, 2012), Migration, States and International Cooperation (with Jeannette Money and Jobst Koehler, Routledge, 2011), Towards a European Nationality (with Patrick Weil, Palgrave, 2001), Dual Nationality, Social Rights, and Federal Citizenship in the U.S. and Europe (with Patrick Weil, Berghahn, 2002), and Immigration and asylum from 1900 to the present [with M. Gibney, ABC-CLIO, 2005].

He was Director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies from 2011 to 2022 and Interim Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy from 2017 to 2020.

He has done consulting work for the International Organization for Migration, Oxford Analytica, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Bank. He has given speeches and talks across Europe, North America, and Asia.

Before taking up a Research Chair at Toronto in 2005, he was Tutorial Fellow in Politics at Merton College, University of Oxford, an Established Chair in Politics, the University of Newcastle, and University Lecturer, Queen Mary, University of London.