OIL & GAS IN KAZAKHSTAN: An Examination of Authoritarian Governance, The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and Labor Unrest
In this paper I examine the dynamics of oil exploitation in the Republic of Kazakhstan to better understand the impact of authoritarian governmental control of this resource on the lives of everyday Kazakh laborers in the extractive industry. In order to do this, I focus on what the state government has done in order to appear more transparent about financial matters in Oil & Gas and how they have addressed or failed to address worker concerns, especially in terms of compensation. More specifically, I look at the Kazakh government's efforts to become EITI-Compliant and at the same time minimize the impact of labor unrest. However, I argue that in its attempt to control society through the regulation of this industry, a "governing of things" in Foucault's terms, the Kazakh government is unintentionally creating ungovernable spaces in the regions of oil exploitation that can be utilized by laborers to negotiate reforms. Furthermore, thanks to an inherent clan culture, this form of modern governmentality actively benefits only the upper echelons of Kazakhstan's political elite, to the exclusion of everyone else, exacerbating problems of regulation, revolt, and subsequent retaliation. I conclude my paper by suggesting topics for further research, such as the exploration of oil's "fetishistic qualities," investigation into other extractive industry transparency or reform initiatives, the study of civil society efforts to promote communication between laborers and their government.