Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.658414
Title: Scarcity and wealth revisited : perspectives on commodity markets in the 21st century
Author: McGill, Sarah Mary
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 1913
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Abstract:
This thesis explores a selection of the ways in which an era of high mineral commodity prices - commonly dubbed the 'super-cycle' of the 2000s - is reshaping the map of global commodity markets. It pursues this agenda through three research aims: (1) to recast the relationship between geophysical resource supply, prices, and markets; (2) to examine some of the institutions that channel and benefit from resource wealth; and (3) to 'open the black box' of the commodity price formation process. The thesis pursues this agenda through four substantive papers, each with its own set of research objectives and findings, and primarily uses the example of phosphate as a vehicle for discussion. The first half of the thesis focuses on the production side of commodity markets. It begins by exploring the multidimensional nature of the concept of resource scarcity, both in its geophysical and socioeconomic aspects, by interrogating a prominent inherited conception of natural resource scarcity: 'peak' natural resources, specifically peak phosphorus discourses (chapter 3). The thesis then carries on the research agenda suggested by this initial study by conducting a field research-based case study of the little-known Moroccan state-owned phosphate mining and fertilizer company, OCP Group (chapter 4). It explores the particular type of principal-agent problem in generating and distributing national resource wealth that national extractive companies (NECs) such as OCP face. The second substantive half of the thesis is concerned with global commodity trading and price formation. It constructs an 'anatomy' of global phosphate markets in order to shed light on the phosphate price formation process (chapter 5). Based on this investigation, the thesis argues that despite the opacity of the processes by which phosphate is priced, an apparent lack of a 'benchmark' or reference price is not necessarily as problematic as market theorists might assume. Finally, the thesis takes a macro-level perspective of the relationship between finance and physical commodity trade by examining the role of financial trading in the governance of commodity markets (chapter 6). Overall the thesis distils the following findings. To begin with, a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the concept of resource scarcity puts short-term price movements as indicators of resource availability into perspective while revealing an unforeseen degree of complexity, as well as certain 'blind spots', in the geopolitical and institutional aspects of resource supply and trading. Second, the power of two particular, less-researched types of institutions that channel and benefit from resource wealth - names, national extractive companies and financial investors - is both less great and different in nature than is commonly assumed. Third, for institutional as well as geographic reasons that are specific to different types of commodities, the commodity price formation process is even further from the joint ideals of market transparency and liquidity than is commonly assumed. Finally, insofar as commodity production and trade can be conceived as part of the 'real economy', it cannot succumb to what is widely feared as the hegemony of 'financial logic'.
Supervisor: Clark, Gordon L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.658414  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Geography ; natural resource scarcity ; commodity markets ; phosphate ; mining industry
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