Publication Details

DiMuzio, T. (2010). The world’s affluent playground: Dubai’s architecture of doom and the future of globalized social reproduction. Standing Group on International Relations, Stockholm, Sweden, September 9-11, 2010. Conference Title: Politics in Hard Times: International Relations (pp. 1-21). Sweden: EISA.

Link to publisher version (URL)

European International Studies Association


During the two major oil price spikes in the 1970s, dollars earned from Middle Eastern oil were largely recycled through banks in the United States and Britain. Much of this money would go to finance a burgeoning arms trade and a number of highly dubious ‘development’ projects that eventually contributed to what was then called the ‘Third World debt crisis’. In the post-911 world, a renewed and dramatic spike in the price of oil encouraged similar activities and a similar crisis. There are, however, considerable differences worth exploring. One such difference is how the Emir of Dubai, with the knowledge that the kingdom’s oil would eventually run out, decided to finance a playground for the world’s affluent with borrowed money. By exploiting foreign labor, Dubai would become the built environment symbolizing luxury, leisure and extreme lifestyles. But Dubai is much more than a playground for the very rich built by the planet’s very poor. It is also a dream and emblematic of money’s power and excess in an era of fossil fuels. This paper explores what I, following the Swedish director Peter Cohen, call Dubai’s Architecture of Doom. It does so by considering the complex interconnections between oil, exploitation and the desire to finance a built environment unlike anywhere else in the world.