Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power
by Steve Coll
Published in May 2013
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
For some reason, this book didn’t capture my interest, and I put it down about 300 pages in.
This book is a history of ExxonMobil from a very left wing anti-business perspective. The book begins with the ExxonMobil merger, painting colorful and unflattering pictures of the responsible executives. He proceeds to go over the ExxonMobil corporate history, painting office life there as a soul-less Orwellian affair. Steve Coll draws numerous comparisons between ExxonMobil’s behavior and the Bush administration, implying that the corporation is merely a product of its time.
ExxonMobil’s various escapades in third world countries are criticized by the author. For example, he alleges that ExxonMobil helped the Indonesian army commit war atrocities and that the company helped sponsor regime change in Chad. Both of these cases, as described in the book, seem to me like ExxonMobil is forced to look for resources in volatile places, and simply has to play along with the local politics. I don’t think that ExxonMobil is destabilizing these regions - if anything, they are economically improving them while at the same time lobbying these countries to adopt pro-capitalism policies.
I learned a lot by ExxonMobil, but felt that the author was disingenuous. Many events which don’t necessarily reflect poorly on ExxonMobil were painted in a very bad light. This book isn’t a bad book - its quite well written and fairly interested, but I don’t recommend it to people without a specific interest in ExxonMobil or the oil industry.
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