Our Future is Still The Future of 1973: Shell’s Foresight and the Petrocultural Penumbra
New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2021 Number 103
Our Future is Still The Future of 1973:
Shell’s Foresight and the Petrocultural
Jeff Diamanti pages 43-62
This article argues that the economic abstraction of fossil fuels into the medium of the market after 1973 makes its force and function in the global economy difficult to see, in the way that the source of a penumbra is obscured by the distribution of its effects over the visual field, but that Shell’s invention of a unique (and now widely adopted) technique for scenarios thinking on the cusp of the 1970s oil crises helps us see the emergence of that recursive futurity in media res. Hence, while the eventual dominance of energy futures trading would, by the end of the 1980s, come to hold the present and future of the global economy to the concrete and abstract materialism of fossil fuels, the focus in this essay is on a novel form of writing that same future strategically and analytically moments before the energy market is restructured. The genealogy offered is of the so-called ‘decision scenario’ invented by Shell and is interesting today for its redefinition of oil from commodity to medium of the market as such, narrating an emergent concept of oil that would eventually get actualised and operationalised in the financial sector over a decade later – even as it would recede from view in discussions of neoliberalism, the post-industrial, and postmodern culture.
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To cite this article
Jeff Diamanti (2021) Our Future is Still The Future of 1973: Shell’s Foresight and the Petrocultural Penumbra, New Formations, 2021(103), 43-62. https://doi.org/10.3898/NEWF:103.03.2021