Alex Beasley is assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently finishing his first book manuscript, Expert Capital: Houston and the Making of a Service Empire, under contract with Harvard University Press. Expert Capital examines the intellectual and economic development of the globally integrated economy through the lens of the oilfield services industry. The book argues that oilfield services executives promoted a new ideology of American internationalism that envisioned the U.S. not as a center of manufacturing and production but as a white-collar headquarters serving the world through its provision of expertise. This corporate strategy and its accompanying ideology provided a way for U.S.-based firms to maintain cultural and economic power in an era of postcolonial nations’ rising political strength. In a moment when U.S. oil resources drastically diminished, exporting oil expertise offered a triumphalist explanation for the U.S. transition from an industrial to a post-industrial economy. The book follows the industry’s highest executives, its domestic and international blue- and white-collar employees, oil consumers at home and abroad, and international business and government officials to uncover the collaborations and negotiations that extended the industry’s reach across the globe and helped to cement the United States—and Houston in particular—as its international headquarters. While oil companies struggled over the ownership of the world’s oil reserves, oilfield services companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger forged a form of capitalism that escaped state oversight and slipped through national boundaries. Capitalizing on expertise remade both capitalism and U.S. foreign relations.
Professor Beasley has published on the history of labor, business, gender and sexuality, cities, and international relations in Diplomatic History, Radical History Review, Urban History Review, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, The American Historian, and Public Seminar. His dissertation was awarded the Honorable Mention for the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations’ Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize, and his article “Service Learning: Oil, International Education, and Texas’ Corporate Cold War” won SHAFR’s Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize for the best article on United States foreign relations in 2018. He was a recipient of the John E. Rovensky Fellowship in U.S. Business and Economic History, and his work has been supported with funding from the American Historical Association, the New Orleans Center for the Global South at Tulane University the Coca-Cola World Fund, and multiple research libraries.
“Serving the World: Energy Contracting, Logistical Labors, and the Culture of Globalization, 1945-2008”