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Hydrocarbons, Popular Protest and National Imaginaries: Ecuador and Bolivia in Comparative Context



This paper examines contemporary struggles over hydrocarbon governance in Ecuador and Bolivia. Our comparative analysis illustrates the ways that petro-capitalism, nationalist ideologies, popular movements and place conjoin in the governance of oil and natural gas. In the case of Ecuador, state employees drew on their labor relations and political training to oppose the government’s efforts to privatize the state oil company. In Bolivia, urban popular movements opposed the privatization of the hydrocarbons industry and its domination by foreign firms. In both cases, hydrocarbons struggles involved the production of imaginative geographies of the nation and it hydrocarbon resources, which in turn drew on historical memories of nationhood. Whereas neoliberal political and economic restructuring sought to re-organize national hydrocarbons companies, redraw concessions, and draft new resource extraction laws, hydrocarbon movements aimed to counter these processes by re-centering hydrocarbon governance within a populist vision of the nation-state. In contrast to analyses of resource conflict in the environmental security and resource curse literatures, the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia demonstrate that such struggles cannot be reduced to models of opportunity structure, war profiteering, or resource scarcity (or abundance). Rather, these cases show that political economy and cultural politics are inseparable in the context of resource conflicts, which involve struggles over the meanings of development, citizenship and the nation itself.
Hydrocarbons, popular protest and national imaginaries: Ecuador and Bolivia
in comparative context
Tom Perreault
, Gabriela Valdivia
Department of Geography, Syracuse University, 144 Eggers Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-1020, USA
Department of Geography, University of North Carolina, Saunders Hall, Campus Box 3220, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3220, USA
article info
Article history:
Received 25 May 2009
Received in revised form 19 February 2010
Resource conflict
Natural gas
This paper examines contemporary struggles over hydrocarbon governance in Ecuador and Bolivia. Our
comparative analysis illustrates the ways that petro-capitalism, nationalist ideologies, popular move-
ments and place conjoin in the governance of oil and natural gas. In the case of Ecuador, state employees
drew on their labor relations and political training to oppose the government’s efforts to privatize the
state oil company. In Bolivia, urban popular movements opposed the privatization of the hydrocarbons
industry and its domination by foreign firms. In both cases, hydrocarbons struggles involved the produc-
tion of imaginative geographies of the nation and it hydrocarbon resources, which in turn drew on his-
torical memories of nationhood. Whereas neoliberal political and economic restructuring sought to re-
organize national hydrocarbons companies, redraw concessions, and draft new resource extraction laws,
hydrocarbon movements aimed to counter these processes by re-centering hydrocarbon governance
within a populist vision of the nation-state. In contrast to analyses of resource conflict in the environmen-
tal security and resource curse literatures, the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia demonstrate that such strug-
gles cannot be reduced to models of opportunity structure, war profiteering, or resource scarcity (or
abundance). Rather, these cases show that political economy and cultural politics are inseparable in
the context of resource conflicts, which involve struggles over the meanings of development, citizenship
and the nation itself.
Ó2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Petro-politics are back in the headlines. Nearly two decades of
US imperial adventures in Iraq, increasing investment in African
oil producing states (and the associated creation of a US military
command for Africa, AFRICOM), renewed US tensions with Russia,
and a newfound alliance between Russia and Venezuela are illus-
trative of the events that have thrust hydrocarbon-producing
states and the specter of ‘resource nationalism’ into the spotlight
(see, for instance, Guriev et al., 2008; Stanislaw, 2009). Struggles
in the global South over the development of oil and natural gas,
and the distribution of the rents they produce, entail complex
articulations of citizenship, territory and the nation. Perhaps the
best known and most intractable of these conflicts is the ongoing
struggle in Nigeria’s Ogoniland region, in the Niger Delta (Watts,
2004), where armed groups have laid siege to Shell’s facilities
and workers, and widespread protests occasionally disrupt oil ex-
ports and affect global prices. Struggles over hydrocarbons in Ecua-
dor and Bolivia – the focus of this paper – while not as violent or
far-reaching as that in Ogoniland, nevertheless share some of its
characteristics. These cases all involve conflicts between transna-
tional oil and gas firms, social movements and their supporters,
and state institutions over hydrocarbon production and the rents
it produces. Such struggles underscore the emergence of and inter-
actions between multiple actors seeking to define the terms of
hydrocarbon governance. Moreover, as in Nigeria, hydrocarbon
conflicts in Ecuador and Bolivia concern not only capitalist rela-
tions of production and the appropriation of surplus value, but also
the production of ‘‘imaginative geographies” – the representing
and practicing – of hydrocarbon nationhood and citizen-communi-
ties (c.f. Gregory, 2004; Said, 1978). By probing the contours of
hydrocarbons-related conflicts in Ecuador and Bolivia, we hope
to illuminate the ways that natural resources figure into construc-
tions of the nation, both official and popular.
Hydrocarbons politics in Ecuador and Bolivia would appear to
hold much in common: both countries are small and impoverished,
with Andean capitals (Quito and La Paz, respectively) that oversee
hydrocarbons producing zones in the eastern lowlands. Both coun-
tries have politically influential indigenous and labor movements
and currently have left-leaning presidents determined to use
hydrocarbons resources for national development. Both countries
have histories of involvement by foreign (particularly US-based)
0016-7185/$ - see front matter Ó2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 315 443 9467; fax: +1 315 443 4227.
E-mail addresses: (T. Perreault), valdivia@email. (G. Valdivia).
Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699
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oil companies and relatively weak national hydrocarbons firms.
These firms (Petroecuador and Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales
Bolivianos, YPFB, respectively) are charged with coordinating
hydrocarbons development but lack the technical capacity neces-
sary to carry out exploration and extraction on their own (in con-
trast, for instance, to Venezuela’s Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.
[PDVSA], Mexico’s PEMEX or Brazil’s Petrobras). This situation
has fostered a structural dependence on foreign firms and histori-
cally tense relations that have fueled resentment toward what is
commonly perceived as foreign domination of the hydrocarbons
In other ways, however, resource struggles in Ecuador and Boli-
via are quite distinct. In Ecuador, Amazonian indigenous peoples,
campesinos and, as discussed below, employees of Petroecuador –
all groups directly affected by oil development – have strongly op-
posed foreign involvement in oil development and argued for
greater state control over hydrocarbon resources. In Bolivia, pro-
tests by those directly affected by gas extraction (e.g., Guaraní
indigenous peoples) have played a relatively minor role in national
debates. Instead, hydrocarbons politics in Bolivia have mostly in-
volved contentious (and at times violent) struggles between those
calling for greater state control of hydrocarbons resources and the
revenues they produce, and those calling for regional autonomy
and greater local control of oil and gas rents. Thus, although re-
source struggles in Ecuador and Bolivia share much with one an-
other, and with other such struggles the world over, a closer look
at the dynamics of resource conflicts reveals that the particular his-
tories of nation and place shape their emergence and expression. In
this paper we examine the dynamics of contemporary resource
struggles in Ecuador and Bolivia vis-à-vis the relationships and
conjunctures that have shaped the hydrocarbon industry in these
nations. We argue that the ways that imagined hydrocarbon com-
munities articulate state institutions of hydrocarbons governance
with citizenship and national belonging have profound implica-
tions on the dynamics of resource struggles. We begin by examin-
ing debates surrounding resource conflict and the role of natural
resources in sustaining ideological conceptions of the nation. We
then continue with a discussion of recent protests over oil and
gas in Ecuador and Bolivia, respectively, followed by a consider-
ation of resources and nationalism in the Andes.
2. Resource conflict and national imaginaries
Questions of resource conflict, the central focus of this paper,
have been addressed from a range of disciplinary backgrounds.
One particularly influential school of thought, the environmental
security perspective, holds that resource scarcity is a primary dri-
ver of conflict. Popularized in the 1990s by journalist Robert Kap-
lan (1994) and given academic legitimacy by the work of political
scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon (1999; see also Homer-Dixon and
Blitt, 1998), this view has been sharply criticized for its deter-
ministic explanations of resource conflict and its causal linking
of ‘scarcity,’ violence, migration, and national security (Peluso
and Watts, 2001). The environmental security perspective has
proven resurgent, however, and has found its most recent expres-
sion in debates surrounding global climate change and its poten-
tial political ramifications. Indeed, in the USA, the view that
climate change should be seen as a security issue seems to be ta-
ken for granted by journalists (Broder, 2009), policy analysts
(Busby, 2007), and the US military (Pumphrey, 2008). That the
CIA has opened a Center on Climate Change and National Security
is further evidence that this perspective has re-emerged with
Sharing a family resemblance with the environmental security
literature is work on the so-called ‘resource curse.’ Focusing on re-
source abundance, as opposed to scarcity, the resource curse thesis
describes the paradoxical situation whereby countries with large
natural resource endowments, and whose economies are heavily
dependent on income from resource production and export, tend
to experience slow economic growth and frequent armed conflict
(Ross, 1999; Sachs and Warner, 2001). Political scientists examin-
ing these processes have focused on the frequency of armed con-
flict – primarily civil wars – among resource-producing states
(see, inter alia,Fearon, 2005; Klare, 2001; Ross, 2004, 2006). In a
comprehensive review of this literature, Ross (1999) identifies cog-
nitive, societal, and state-centered explanations for the resource
curse. Building on this work, Dunning (2005) examined resource
dependence, economic performance and political conditions in
Botswana, Suharto’s Indonesia and Mobutu’s Zaire, concluding that
the causes and outcomes of the so-called resource curse in each
country are contingent and contextual: national politics, past his-
tories of resource development, and world commodity markets
all influence resource dependence, political conflict and economic
outcomes. But even with all the nuance Dunning can muster, this
explanatory framework – rooted in statistical analysis of such vari-
ables as resource endowments, GNP, and war casualties – fails ade-
quately to account for the complexities of most resource conflicts.
A more geographical view is provided by considering the political
ecologies of resource conflict. For instance, LeBillon (2001, p. 562)
characterizes resource extraction activities as an ‘‘exclusionary form
of globalization” in which ‘‘[v]iolence is expressed in the subjugation
of the rights of people to determine the use of their environment and
the brutal patterns of resource extraction and predation.” As LeBil-
lon observes, neither the resource scarcity thesis championed by
Homer-Dixon nor the curse of resource abundance espoused by Ross
and Dunning, consider the socially constructed nature of natural re-
sources themselves, and thus fail to account for the social relations
of production and consumption, as well as the geographical imagi-
naries that give resources their commodity form and social meaning
(Harvey, 1974). In analyzing different types of resource conflict, LeB-
illon (2001) constructs a typology of resources along four axes: those
that are spatially diffuse (forests, fisheries) vs. those that are spa-
tially concentrated (diamonds, oil wells); and those that are proxi-
mate to population centers vs. those that are distant. This is a
richer account of resource conflicts, which considers some of the
material variation in resources themselves, as well as society’s rela-
tionship to them (see also LeBillon, 2008). Such models nevertheless
fall short of fully explaining the dynamics and character of resource
conflict, which imbricate not only the spatiality of resources and
populations, but also the particular histories and geographies of re-
source governance, and the broader political economies that con-
nect resource producing zones with centers of resource processing
and consumption (Selby, 2005a, b). Moreover, to the extent that re-
source conflicts entail the assertion of political claims and concom-
itant moral economies, attention must be paid to the ideological
dimensions that inhere within them. As Turner (2004, p. 866) notes,
It is only through a full and critical engagement with both the
materiality which underlies all social life and the moral claims
that implicate natural resource use that the etiology of
resource-related conflict can be better understood. Struggles
over resources are often only superficially so – they in fact
reflect not only broader tensions (with ethical dimensions)
between social groups but also tensions within these groups.
In this view, resource conflicts in the global South are not only
the result of uneven development between states, but are often
characterized by exclusionary geographies of wealth and poverty
mate-change-and-national-security.html (accessed 22 December, 2009).
690 T. Perreault, G. Valdivia / Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699
within those states. As such, analysis of resource conflict must be
attentive to the political economies that structure resource access,
as well as the processes by which meanings and social identities
are produced within the crucible of resource politics (Moore,
2000). In this paper, we take as axiomatic two points regarding re-
source struggles. First, that the analysis of resource struggles
necessitates a historical perspective that joins political economy
and cultural politics to take into account the material and symbolic
elements that shape their emergence. Second, resource struggles
are never only (or even primarily) about resources. Rather, conflicts
over resources such as oil and gas become focal points for broader
struggles involving the terms of citizenship, the nation, rights and
identity (Watts, 2001). It is from this perspective that we analyze
resource conflicts in Ecuador and Bolivia.
2.1. Hydrocarbons and nation-building in contemporary Ecuador and
In his analysis of petro-violence in the Niger Delta, Watts (2004)
points out that subterranean resources such as hydrocarbons artic-
ulate with the territoriality of the nation-state, raising crucial ques-
tions about how ‘local’ and ‘national’ communities and claims are
constituted and contested vis-à-vis hydrocarbons development.
Similar articulations of resources, nation, and citizen-communities
are observed in contemporary Ecuador and Bolivia, where hydro-
carbons played a fundamental role in projects of nation-building
during the 20th century. With increasing inter-connection of na-
tional economies and global markets during the last 30 years of
neoliberal policies, struggles over hydrocarbon governance have
intensified. Both Bolivia and Ecuador entered global markets and
adopted neoliberal reforms in the 1980s, albeit in different forms
and magnitudes (Demmers et al., 2001; Malloy and Gamarra,
1988; Yashar, 2005). In Ecuador, neoliberal policies have followed
a piece-meal fashion, reducing public spending while generously
favoring private investment in productive sectors such as the
hydrocarbon industry. In Bolivia, austerity measures were fully
implemented in 1985, turning the country into a poster-child for
structural adjustment. Populist redistribution was abandoned
and the country’s mining and hydrocarbon sectors were opened
to private investment through the decentralization of the state
mining (Corporación Minera de Bolivia, COMIBOL) and petroleum
(YPFB) corporations. In both countries, neoliberal policies marked
a presumed break from state-led populist capitalism and entailed
a double movement that promoted the withdrawal of state power
from certain sectors (namely, public institutions governing public
services) while simultaneously reinforcing state intervention in
others (e.g., administering austerity plans and new taxes). These
changes in the governing structure and national political economy
fueled criticisms from various sectors of society that drew on alter-
native imaginations of state-citizen relations in matters of hydro-
carbon governance.
This paper interrogates these alternative imaginings of re-
sources, population and the state in Ecuador and Bolivia, and in
particular, examines the ways that subterranean nature – oil and
natural gas – has come to figure centrally in the ideological
construction of the nation.
In Latin America, this conjoining of na-
tion and nature is captured in the Spanish term la Patria. Glossed as
la Patria is comprised of two bodies: the body politic,
which consists of government and citizens, and the natural body,
which consists of nature and territory that form the lifeblood of
the economy (Coronil, 1997). In countries with economically produc-
tive hydrocarbon and mineral sectors, la Patria often conjures sub-
terranean natural resources (oil, gas and minerals) as patrimonio
nacional, the inheritance of the nation and its citizens, which is im-
bued with historical significance and purpose through its ability to
promote national growth and modernization (c.f. Martz, 1987).
Since mid-decade, left-leaning governments in Ecuador and
Bolivia have embarked on ambitious projects of national re-
imagining through hydrocarbon governance. This has entailed
the writing of new constitutions and the enactment of explicitly
anti-neoliberal economic policies that increase the role and over-
sight of the national government in hydrocarbon matters. In both
countries, hydrocarbon development and the rents it generates
figure centrally in government plans, both as a source of income
to finance social programs and as a focal point of ideological
constructions of citizenship and the nation. These efforts have
translated into an assertive policy of re-negotiating contracts
with international oil and gas firms (in Bolivia, under the guise
of ‘nationalization’) and the economic and political fortification
of the national hydrocarbons companies (Petroecuador and YPFB,
respectively). As Radcliffe and Westwood (1996) remind us, how-
ever, nationalisms come in both ‘official’ and ‘popular’ varieties,
both of which are constitutive of the imagined community that
is the nation (see also Anderson, 1983; Hobsbawm, 1992). In
the following sections, we build on this insight to examine
how claims to citizenship and nation gain meaning vis-à-vis
hydrocarbons conflicts in Ecuador and Bolivia. In both countries,
indigenous organizations, labor unions, regional elites, local gov-
ernments, and an array of social movements on the right and left
have contributed to the production and reconfiguration of geo-
graphical imaginaries of hydrocarbon nationalisms, often in ways
that blur boundaries between official and popular views of what
constitutes the nation. Social conflict and political protest in both
countries occasionally erupt into spasms of violence and revolve
around control of national patrimony, oil and gas blocs, the dis-
tribution of rents derived from state resources, and the negative
social and environmental effects stemming from hydrocarbon
development. We ground our analysis in two particular hydro-
carbon-related movements. First, we consider unionized Ecuado-
rian oil workers and their demands for greater state control over
what they view as national patrimony. We then move onto a dis-
cussion of historical memory and contemporary conflicts over
state control of natural gas development and the rents it pro-
duces in Bolivia.
3. The making of the Ecuadorian petro-nation
The commercial exploitation of petroleum has shaped visions of
the boundaries, potentialities, and character of the Ecuadorian na-
tion-state. By 1970 – three years after the discovery of the first sig-
nificant oilfield – some thirty concessions comprising nearly ten
This research is based on 5 months of field research by Valdivia in Ecuador (2001–
2003 and 2007–2009) and 4 months of field research in Bolivia by Perreault (2006–
2009). The Ecuadorian case study draws on participant observation in petroleum-
related marches and meetings in public areas in Quito; 11 key informant interviews
with current and former union representatives (group and individual interviews in
both formal interview settings and during marches); and media and archival research.
Bolivian fieldwork consisted of key informant interviews in La Paz and Cochabamba
with activists, scholars and state officials, as well as participant observation in
conferences, meetings and public events, including demonstrations and street
protests. All interview translations are by the authors. Both authors have research
experience in both countries, and contributed to the analysis of both case studies.
We take the ‘nation’ as a multiform, unstable, contested, and processual concept.
There is an enormous body of literature on the nation and nationalism, within and
beyond geography. For comprehensive treatments of these concepts see, inter alia,
Anderson (1983), Gellner (2008), and Hobsbawm (1992).
But, as Sawyer (2002) notes, ‘la Patria’ is a feminine noun, making its gender
connotations ambiguous. As such, this feminization makes the fatherland something
to be protected and defended from potential violations by outsiders: ‘‘La Patria is the
cherished possession of the pater, el padre – the prize of his patrimony. La patria is the
gendered trophy of the ruler that ensures national identity and its faithful
reproduction” (Sawyer, 2002, pp. 162–163).
T. Perreault, G. Valdivia / Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699 691
million hectares were granted throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon,
attracting heavy investment from multiple hydrocarbon explora-
tion and production companies (Fontaine, 2003). In 1972, the SOTE
(Sistema de Oleoducto de Transporte Ecuatoriano), a 503-km long
pipeline, began transporting petroleum from the Amazon rainfor-
est (near sea level), over an Andean pass exceeding 4000 m in ele-
vation, and down to the Pacific coast for export and refining.
Today, this re-mapping and integration of Ecuador’s territory
through petroleum activities generates 40% of all export earnings
and one third of all tax revenues (EIA, 2007). This petroleum econ-
omy also has engendered powerful mobilizations against social
injustices associated with petroleum extraction, production, and
profit generation, such as land appropriation, detrimental health ef-
fects, loss of traditional knowledges, and the marginalization of
indigenous peoples (cf. Acosta, 2000; Fontaine, 2003; Little, 1992;
Kimmerling, 1992; Sawyer, 2002). Here we focus exclusively on
the mobilization of national petroleum workers. Consideration of
the petroleum workers’ movement is important because, first, they
are one of the most vocal groups opposing the neoliberalization of
the national petroleum industry, second, unionized workers were
one of the first social groups to articulate petroleum as national pat-
rimony, and third, they represent a unique position: they are state
representatives (working for the state oil company) that are publicly
critical of state practices.
The following sections explore how petro-
leum production and views on state sovereignty shape the Ecuado-
rian petro-nation, as envisioned by petroleum workers.
3.1. Seeding the hydrocarbon nation
Multiple processes have shaped the conjoining of nation and
hydrocarbons in Ecuador. Soon after a territorial dispute broke into
war between Perú and Ecuador in 1941, the two countries were
coaxed to amicably resolve the issue through a ‘peace protocol,’
the Protocolo de Paz, Amistad, y Límites, in which Ecuador essen-
tially consented to abandon claims to large Amazonian territories
in favor of regional peace. The ratification of the Protocol resulted
in profound resentment among nationalists in Ecuador, who re-
ferred to it as a moment that injured the nation’s spirit (Luna,
2007). These conditions fostered a nationalism based on the mem-
ory of territories unjustly lost, symbolized by the national motto
that still graces the presidential stationary: ‘‘El Ecuador ha sido,
es y será país amazónico” (‘‘Ecuador is and always will be an Ama-
zonian country”) (c.f. Sawyer, 2004). Some also claim that behind
the conflict was a dispute between oil companies seeking easier ac-
cess to Amazonian resources (Fontaine, 2003), thus feeding a ‘‘col-
lective trauma” and resentment towards the vendepatrias (those
who sell the nation for profit) that favor foreign petroleum exploi-
tation (Diario Los Andes, 2007).
This confluence of geopolitical conflict, territorial disputes, and
foreign investment shaped ensuing decades of petroleum gover-
nance in Ecuador. As the national petroleum industry developed
in the 1970s, nationalist sectors saw entreguismo (giving away
the country’s interests) and not patriotismo (love for one’s country)
in the contract terms and practices of concessionary leasing that
dominated at the time. Anxiety over the ‘proper’ (i.e., nationally-
oriented) governance of the nascent petroleum industry led to
the overthrow of the elected government in 1972 by a revolution-
ary, nationalist military junta (Martz, 1987). The new military gov-
ernment nationalized all subsurface resources as patrimony of the
state and created the first national institutions and laws through
which to govern natural resources. The goal was to define a con-
sciousness of national sovereignty based on the governance of
petroleum. As a result, contractual terms with petroleum compa-
nies were reviewed; the allocation of large concessions to private
companies ended; the Ecuadorian Petroleum State Corporation
(CEPE, re-organized as Petroecuador in 1989) was created to man-
age petroleum affairs; and a small labor force was trained in tech-
nologies of petroleum extraction and refinement to serve the
nascent petroleum industry in Ecuador. By 1977, the first national
refinery, Refinería Estatal Esmeraldas, started operating, with an
original processing capacity of 55,500 barrels per day.
As in other Latin American petro-states, the Ecuadorian govern-
ment used petroleum revenues to modernize the nation. State-led
programs channeled these revenues into well-being and progress
(through urbanization, health, and educational programs) and
transformed the state into the apparatus that not only generated
modernity but also took care of its population (c.f. Montúfar,
The central government provided subsidies for the general
population, kept taxes low, and financed credit for industrial inves-
tors. Petroleum-backed credit policies favored agro-exports and im-
port-substitution schemes (Conaghan et al., 1990); investment in
commercial real estate, manufacturing, and services (Carrière,
2001); and rapid urbanization (Swyngedouw, 2004). Domestic
petroleum products were heavily subsidized and their increasing
consumption generated a broad feeling of economic progress, partic-
ularly among urban residents (Gerlach, 2003).
3.2. Petro-subjects and the birth of petro-nationalism
‘‘Workers have to protect the interests of the nation.” (Henry
Llanes, former petroleum union leader, quoted in El Comercio
February 25, 2009)
The project of nation-building was present not only in the phys-
ical structures that formed the new national petroleum industry
but also in the minds of its employees (Valdivia, 2008). According
to one of the first operators of the Refinería Estatal Esmeraldas,
employees were immersed in a nationalist wave of lifting up CEPE,
la empresa (the firm), where they had ‘‘experienced the presence of
capital and foreign experts” (Interview June 13, 2008).
CEPE and
the refinery in Esmeraldas became sites where workers acquired a
‘sense of politics’ from the association of nation-building projects
and the prosperity that petro-capital had generated around the
country. It is in these sites of production – where labor and petro-
leum mixed to generate the petro-dollars that financed national
wealth – that a consciousness of petroleum-citizenship also
emerged. For petroleum workers, CEPE not only was the institution
that symbolized sovereignty over petroleum but also the mechanism
through which the nation-state was reproduced. In 1979, with the
return to democracy, the first petroleum workers’ union formed in
Esmeraldas, the Sindicato de Operadores de la Refinería de Esmeral-
das (SORE), which became the epicenter of petroleum worker poli-
tics. According to Marcelo Román, one of the first leaders of the
We had an incomparable militancy. We were 140 communist
militants in the refinery out of 600 workers... we were there
Refining was initially conducted in the Santa Elena Peninsula and managed by
joint-venture and foreign oil companies such as Anglo Ecuadorian Oilfields and Gulf.
A number of Native Amazonian groups and national indigenous leaders also
articulate this perspective today. Nonetheless, their claims have been framed,
historically, in terms of the governance of indigenous territories vis-à-vis petroleum
exploitation. More recently, some leaders of CONAIE, the national level indigenous
organization in Ecuador, have also voiced concerns over petroleum as concerns over
national patrimony.
The benefits of petroleum, however, were not evenly distributed throughout the
country. In the Amazonian provinces where petroleum is extracted, petroleum did not
provide the benefits expected by local populations.
To protect the identity of those that publicly challenge state petroleum policies
and in accordance with IRB regulations on the protection of research subjects such as
workers, activists quoted here remain anonymous (unless they have published their
accounts under their own names).
692 T. Perreault, G. Valdivia / Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699
from the beginning, when the refinery was just a few pipes.
There was a confluence of politics there. It wasn’t only about
wages, it was a fight, a political vision... From Esmeraldas, we
were able to unionize the rest. (Interview, June 13, 2008)
By 1982, however, a drop in global petroleum prices and reve-
nues marked the beginning of structural change in the hydrocar-
bon sector. The Ecuadorian government began to implement
measures that favored foreign and private involvement in produc-
tive sectors to alleviate the developing economic crisis. Moderniza-
tion acquired a new meaning under this model: austerity
programs, the retreat of the state from social programs, foreign
investment, and a greater role for the market in the governance
of petroleum (Fontaine, 2003; Montúfar, 1990). The national petro-
leum industry was targeted as a site in need of reform in this pro-
cess of structural change. In 1989, CEPE was re-organized into
Petroecuador, a conglomerate of affiliated but independent enter-
prises with distinct roles in exploration, production of derivatives,
and domestic commercialization (Brogan, 1984). This restructur-
ing, portrayed as an effort to eliminate inefficiency and encourage
foreign investment (Montúfar, 2000), was seen by petroleum
workers as an attempt to minimize the power of the labor move-
ment that had developed within the company.
This transformation of the meaning and mechanisms of mod-
ernization in Ecuador set in motion a call-to-arms to ‘defend the
people’s resources’ among unionized petroleum workers.
we outline two such moments of resource defense: protests against
the privatization of the SOTE and mobilizations against the privati-
zation of Petroecuador oilfields. In both instances, petroleum work-
ers successfully postponed privatization. Crucially, their view is not
that petroleum exploitation should be stopped, but that the central
government has assumed an erroneous position by privileging pri-
vate enterprise over the Ecuadorian population. Specifically, petro-
leum workers see structural adjustment measures as limiting the
role of the state in the management of petroleum, and have charged
national governments with treason for selling out to capitalist
3.3. Workers against privatization
Throughout the 1990s, the Ecuadorian government continued
to push for the privatization of the main pipeline, SOTE, to increase
foreign investment, rates of extraction, and revenues (Corbo,
1992). According to union leaders, this was a defining moment
for the petroleum labor movement; it honed petroleum workers’
political consciousness and pushed them to engage in more pro-
nounced expressions of civil unrest in order to articulate their
opposition to the privatization of the national industry (Interview,
November 24, 2007). While privatization certainly translated into
greater livelihood risk, protests against the privatization of the
company and oilfields focused mostly on its effects on state sover-
eignty. One of the most significant of these moments of syndicate
opposition began to take shape in 1992, when then President Sixto
Durán Ballén initiated a process of apertura petrolera (opening the
oil industry to private investors) that granted third party actors
generous investment incentives (such as billing the Ecuadorian
state for their labor and infrastructure while retaining control over
these), reduced import taxes, and provided state subsidies to ex-
ploit hydrocarbon resources while reducing state oversight in
these matters. In the view of the labor movement, the apertura
petrolera reduced the capabilities and responsibilities of the state
in matters of national importance and weakened its role as an
effective sovereign.
In 1995, in one of the best-known mobilizations that exemplify
petroleum workers’ imaginaries of the petro-nation, members of
FETRAPEC chained themselves to a replica of a pipeline staged in
Quito’s busiest gas station to protest the privatization of the SOTE
and question the economic strategies proposed by then Minister of
Energy, Galo Abril. The strike, known as the encadenados del oleo-
ducto (people chained to the pipeline), lasted nearly two weeks
and received significant media coverage, partly because it coin-
cided with a profound electricity crisis that spurred popular sup-
port for petroleum workers and spread doubts about Abril’s
performance as energy tsar (Durán and Nieto, 1995).
and editorials in leading newspapers across the nation (El Comercio,
La Hora, Hoy, Expreso, El Telégrafo, and El Universo) documented the
plight of petroleum workers against the corruption that enveloped
the privatization of the SOTE, the ‘lifeline’ of the nation. Moreover,
protesters announced their determination to follow up with a shut-
down of petroleum activities, a hunger strike, and even severing
their limbs if government authorities did not take care of the ram-
pant corruption that plagued the hydrocarbon sector (Diario La Hora,
1995, quoted in Narváez Quiñónez et al. (1996, p. 170)).
to a former president of FETRAPEC, present at the front line of this
protest, petroleum workers specifically objected to proposals to ex-
pand the pipeline’s capacity through private investment, qualifying
the process as being stuck in a ‘‘neoliberal mentality” that shifted fo-
cus away from the energy needs of the national population to the
welfare of private enterprises (Interview June 13, 2008). The protest
was largely successful, not only because of the significant media cov-
erage and popular support that workers received – the Bishop of the
Amazonian province of Sucumbíos gave his blessing to the encade-
namiento pointing out that ‘‘God is not neoliberal” – but also be-
cause later assessments found the improvement-through-
privatization plans lacking (Narváez Quiñónez et al. (1996, p. 175)).
The government of Lucio Gutiérrez (2003–05) marked a second
important moment for the articulation of nation and petroleum
among unionized petroleum workers. FETRAPEC had initially sup-
ported Gutiérrez, and had initiated a dialog with him to determine
the best course of action for the national industry. A few months
after his election in 2003, however, Gutierrez signed an accord of
compromise with the IMF that included the privatization of some
of Petroecuador’s oilfields. He also gave his Ministry of Energy, Car-
los Arboleda, the task of accelerating privatization of the four most
productive oil fields. Union leaders characterized this move as a
betrayal that favored transnational companies over Ecuadorians
(Villavicencio, 2006). In response, FETRAPEC leaders initiated a ‘pro-
longed demonstration’ that led to a tightening of gasoline sup-
Petroleum workers were not alone in their protests against
Gutierrez’s policies. Their mobilization was joined by multiple sectors
of civil society – indigenous peoples, educators, students, unions and
guilds, and middle-class households – who objected to the state-citi-
zen relations advanced by Gutierrez. Petroleum workers protested
alongside (and, at times, in collaboration with) these various groups.
These mobilizations were often met with repressive tactics by central govern-
ments (particularly, the León Febres Cordero and Lucio Gutiérrez administrations),
which articulated a discourse of anti-patriotism against those that opposed their
economic policies.
Abril was dubbed ‘Lord of Darkness’ because of the recurring blackouts caused by
the electricity crisis in 1995.
The publication by Narváez et al. is a union sponsored effort that tracks how the
printed media depicted the events of 1995. It contains photocopies of articles from
various major Ecuadorian newspapers that describe and interpret the actions of
petroleum union members. The publication also contains essays by former union
Petroecuador workers cannot legally enter a strike, thus, they refer to their public
acts of protest as ‘prolonged demonstrations’ or ‘extended assemblies.’
In some instances, FETRAPEC opened up its official locale to house meetings that
brought together indigenous representatives, worker’s unions, and other activists. In
this sense, FETRAPEC leadership procured some of the initial spaces for civil society
conversations across class and ethnic differences in the 1990s.
T. Perreault, G. Valdivia / Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699 693
Marches, banners, political murals, editorials and announcements in
the radio and printed media were used to illustrate, literally and figu-
ratively, what workers labeled a ‘‘marriage of convenience” that
bonded Gutierrez and the IMF, a union sealed by selling the nation’s
patrimony to the highest bidder (Valdivia, 2008).
The message of the petroleum union remained the same
throughout this second moment of mobilization: members of
FETRAPEC protesting in the streets of downtown Quito saw the
need for ‘‘unmasking the false nationalist discourse on petroleum
that current governments articulate... [and] the right time to con-
front the model... and make its falseness visible to all” (Interview,
August 30, 2003). Arboleda opted to use force to stop the strike,
retaliating with image defamation campaigns (targeting what he
qualified as the ‘‘padded” and ‘‘privileged” unions) that aired con-
stantly on the media outlets to weaken and decapitate the worker’s
movement (Langa, 2003). Union leaders were accused of failing to
fulfill their obligations as public servants and being anti-patriotic
and terrorists. Arboleda also used ‘incentives:’ According to a for-
mer leader of the FETRAPEC (now a consultant for the union),
numerous unionized employees were offered generous retirement
offers, himself included, to reduce opposition to restructuring pro-
jects (Interview, June 12, 2008). The acceptance of many of these
‘incentives’ was eventually publicly decried in the media; a strat-
egy that weakened the nationalist position of the union in the eyes
of the larger public.
By the time Gutierrez was ousted in 2005, the intense defama-
tion campaign had exhausted the union leadership and led to
internal questioning within the ranks of the worker movement.
With the election of President Rafael Correa in 2005 and the estab-
lishment of a Constituent Assembly that is inclusive of leftist and
nationalist sectors of society, the role of oppositional petroleum
worker politics was further diminished. Yet, FETRAPEC’s leadership
continues to caution against current petroleum policies. Since
2007, they have publicly criticized Correa’s plan to cede Petroecua-
dor oil operations to foreign companies and the ratification of a
new Mining Law, which they see as the continuation of the ‘‘old
neoliberal project of privatization,” ill-informed, and in collusion
with the ‘‘petroleum mafias” of Petroecuador and the Ministry of
Mines and Petroleum that do not have the nation’s interests at
heart (Frente Social por la Nacionalización del Petróleo (FSNP)
et al., 2008).
As the current leader of FETRAPEC suggests, the
claims that gave rise to a labor movement to protect the nation’s
petroleum industry in the 1970s, continue to be relevant today
(Cano, 2008). Petroleum continues to be the medium of articulation
of nation, sovereignty, and citizenship, as expressed by petroleum
workers in an open letter published on April 7, 2008 by the FSNP:
[the petroleum labor movement is looking for the] implementa-
tion of a true, sovereign, petroleum policy: one that starts the
nationalization of petroleum and ends the entreguismo and
allows the country to restore the rational and sustainable man-
agement of its natural resources so that the revenues derived –
from the commercialization of crude and the sale of its deriva-
tives – are destined to meet the basic needs of all the population
as well as restore the productive apparatus of the nation, and
they don’t go exclusively to benefiting the transnational compa-
nies, which, over many years, have over-exploited and
destroyed our natural wealth (FSNP, 2008).
If petroleum workers have been at the forefront of efforts to
reconfigure the relations between hydrocarbons and the Ecuadori-
an nation, in Bolivia similar struggles have been taken up by an ar-
ray of social movement coalitions in both the Andean highlands
and (from a radically different political position) in the eastern
lowlands. These processes are outlined, below.
4. Hydrocarbon protest in Bolivia: Collective memory and
popular nationalisms
In Bolivia, recent political mobilization and conflict over hydro-
carbons have been animated by collective imaginaries of the coun-
try’s historical identity as a resource-producing state. Popular
constructions of Bolivia as a mining country (‘‘país minero”) – a
reflection of the country’s long-standing dependence on silver
and later tin exports – have largely given way to its re-construction
as a petro-state and the commonly held belief that the country’s
political and economic aspirations lie in its potential to produce
hydrocarbons, and particularly natural gas. Popular imaginaries
of natural gas and its role in the national story are in this way
rooted in nationalist understandings of Bolivian resources as the
fulcrum on which turn the country’s relations with the global
economy. As Bolivian labor leader and activist Óscar Olivera has
written, ‘‘The transfer of wealth to private and foreign hands is
the fate that has befallen the collective national patrimony... Boli-
via’s possession of natural gas and petroleum, because of their
world-wide use, is what most strongly ties the national economy
to world trade and foreign investment” (2004: 154). But gas must
be seen as a component of broader debates about the nation, and is
bound up with discussions of regional autonomy, land reform,
development models and the nature of the state itself. Recent dis-
course and political practice in Bolivia have splintered into oppos-
ing ideological positions. On the one hand, the government of Evo
Morales and his supporters promote a nationalist vision, in which
the state controls production and sale of hydrocarbons, according
to a highly redistributive model of state-led development. On the
other hand, economic and political elites based in the lowland
departments of Santa Cruz and Tarija (with the support of elites
elsewhere) promote a regionalist, ‘‘autonomist” vision of national
development, in which governments of the various departments
are empowered to establish their own terms of investment and
trade, and may retain a greater share of hydrocarbons rents (Gus-
tafson, forthcoming; Eaton, 2007). In what follows, we discuss the
history of hydrocarbons governance in Bolivia, and then recount
two watershed events: the 2003 ‘gas war,’ and Evo Morales’ 2006
‘nationalization’ of hydrocarbons. Although these events were
transitory, illusory (they were neither a ‘war’ nor a true ‘national-
ization’), and too complex to be fully examined here (but see Per-
reault, 2006, 2008), we argue that they were defining moments in
the articulation of hydrocarbons resources and the nation.
4.1. A brief history of hydrocarbons development in Bolivia
The first sustained efforts at hydrocarbons exploration in Boli-
via were made by Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (now
ExxonMobil), which in 1921 acquired from the government all
concessions for oil exploration within Bolivian territory, as well
as agreements permitting it a range of refining, transportation,
and marketing functions (Orgáz García, 2002). This arrangement
remained in place until 1936 when, following Bolivia’s disastrous
and humiliating loss to Paraguay in what became known as the
Chaco War, the government broke its contract with Standard,
allowing the company exploration rights only. The calamity of
the Chaco War gave rise to a new, and newly national, hydrocar-
bons policy: oil and natural gas – the patrimonio nacional – would
be exploited by a national firm for the benefit of the Bolivian state
and people. The government gave the newly created state petro-
leum company, YPFB, responsibility for production, transport,
Whether directly related or not (different sides will argue different motives),
union leaders that openly criticized Correa’s resource policies in 2008 have been laid
off or accused of exhibiting ‘‘questionable” behavior.
694 T. Perreault, G. Valdivia / Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699
refining and commercialization of oil and natural gas. The first
nationalization of Bolivian hydrocarbons occurred in 1937 when
Standard was accused of illegally transporting petroleum to Argen-
tina, and the company’s assets were expropriated and transferred
to YPFB (Wu, 1994). YPFB has since come to represent (and be rep-
resented as) the embodiment of the state and national patrimony,
and ensuing shifts in governance may be seen as an oscillation be-
tween YPFB (state) and private foreign capital.
Following the 1952 Social Revolution, the government faced in-
tense international political pressure, food shortages and the threat
of US sanctions. The Eisenhower administration sought to prevent
the leftward drift of Bolivia’s Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario
(MNR) government, and in the nine year period from 1953 to 1961
Bolivia received more US aid per capita than any other country in
the world (Rabe, 1988; see also Healy, 2001). This largesse came
with a cost, however. Eisenhower made it clear to Bolivian presi-
dent Víctor Paz Estenssoro that continued US assistance would
be contingent upon Bolivia’s granting concessions to US oil firms.
Such conditions were met by the 1956 hydrocarbons law, which
was effectively written by lawyers from the US-based firm Daven-
port and Schuster, and which strongly favored foreign investment
in Bolivian hydrocarbons development, while limiting the possibil-
ities for national involvement (Hindery, 2003). With the imple-
mentation of the so-called Davenport Code, Gulf Oil entered
Bolivia in 1956 and before long became the dominant actor in
the hydrocarbons sector, controlling some 90% of Bolivian oil and
gas reserves. Conditions changed yet again in 1969 when the mil-
itary government of Alfredo Ovando Candia repealed the Daven-
port Code, expropriated the assets of Gulf Oil and expelled the
company. This, then, was the second nationalization of Bolivian
hydrocarbons, and a clear attempt by the state to regain control
of its most important source of export income (Orgáz García,
This policy was short lived, however. In 1970 a coup d’etat
brought to power Colonel Hugo Banzer Suárez, who quickly set
out to reverse Ovando’s hydrocarbons policy. In March 1972, Ban-
zer promulgated a new General Hydrocarbons Law, which permit-
ted foreign investment and allowed for joint operations between
foreign firms and YPFB. Eighteen foreign firms were promptly
granted 30-year concessions (Orgáz García, 2002), and Gulf Oil
was promised indemnification for its 1969 expulsion, the payment
of which strained YPFB’s ability to produce profitably, slowed oil
exports, and threw the company into debt (Hindery, 2003).
Neoliberal reforms were first introduced to Bolivia in the mid-
1980s, amid profound economic and political crisis (Conaghan
et al., 1990; Perreault, 2005). In 1985, when Víctor Paz Estenssoro
was re-elected for the fourth and final time, he quickly imple-
mented his New Economic Policy, a package of orthodox structural
adjustments focused on austerity measures, the reduction of trade
barriers, and the privatization of state industries (Kohl and Far-
thing, 2006). The most far-reaching neoliberal reforms to affect
the hydrocarbons sector were to come in the 1990s, however, with
the election of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. In 1996, the govern-
ment of Sánchez de Lozada set forth its ‘energy triangle’ policy,
consisting of (a) a new hydrocarbons law; (b) capitalization of
the state hydrocarbons firm YPFB; and (c) construction of a natural
gas pipeline to Brazil. Together, these measures were intended to
increase state revenues by facilitating private investment in Boliv-
ian hydrocarbons and opening up new markets in Brazil. The new
hydrocarbons law sought to promote foreign investment by
restructuring the tax code and implementing a new concession
system; facilitating the import, export and internal marketing of
hydrocarbons; and allowing foreign parties to distribute, transport,
refine, and industrialize oil and gas (Hindery, 2003). Liberalization
of the hydrocarbons sector was encouraged by the US government
and the Inter-American Development Bank, and was explicitly pro-
moted by the World Bank through specific sectoral loans, ‘institu-
tion building’ programs (and associated loans), and direct lobbying
of members of Bolivia’s Congress to pass enabling legislation (Hin-
dery, 2004).
4.2. Hydrocarbon nationalism
In October 2003, Bolivia was convulsed by violent and wide-
spread protests that quickly came to be known as the guerra del
gas, or gas war. The eponymous issue of the protest was the gov-
ernment’s plan to export liquefied natural gas to the United States
through a Chilean port. Under the rules established by the revised
hydrocarbons law of 1996 the financial benefits of gas export were
to accrue overwhelmingly to the transnational firms involved in
the venture, while the state would receive relatively little in the
way of gas rents. The law lowered the rate of royalties that export-
ing firms would pay the state, and established conditions of shared
risk, in which royalties were to be paid to the state only in cases of
profitability, in contrast to the previous requirement of payment
for any oil or gas extracted, regardless of market conditions (Hylton
and Thompson, 2004). That the re-organization of Bolivia’s hydro-
carbons sector strongly favored private (mostly foreign) capital,
while disadvantaging the state was not lost on Bolivian national-
ists, intellectuals or activists on the political left (Kohl and Farthing,
2006). Indeed, the breaking up of YPFB – referred to by some as its
in reference to its administrative dismember-
ment into ‘upstream’ (exploration and extraction) and ‘downstream’
(processing and retailing) components – signaled the weakening of
state control over oil and gas production, and was considered a par-
ticular indignity by many nationalists and leftists (Orgáz García,
2002). Plans to allow foreign interests to export liquefied natural
gas (LNG) via Chile, Bolivia’s historic rival (to which Bolivia lost its
coastal territory in the 1879–83 War of the Pacific), were similarly
viewed as an intolerable affront.
The protests that were to fuse into the gas war were initiated by
Aymara campesinos led by Felipe Quispe, who had until then
shown little concern for the gas issue (Centellas, 2007). The turning
point came in mid-September 2003, when a government mission
to ‘rescue’ hundreds of foreign and Bolivian travelers stranded by
road blockades sparked protests in the Aymara town of Warisata
and resulted in six deaths (including that of a eight year old girl).
The widespread public outrage that culminated in the violence of
the gas war resulted from the perception that the state was willing
to sacrifice national interests (campesino lives) for foreign interests
(tourist comfort).
As an early center of Aymara social and political
mobilization (including literacy and bilingual educational programs
as early as the 1920s), Warisata holds a unique place in Aymara his-
torical memory. Its role as a focal point of resistance to Bolivia’s rac-
ist, neocolonial state informed both the response of local residents to
the presence of the police and military convoy, and the larger pro-
cesses of political uprising for which it served as a catalyst (García
Linera, 2004).
Diverse and spatially dispersed protests were quickly galva-
nized in their opposition to Sánchez de Lozada, and his efforts to
export natural gas rapidly assumed symbolic power as the focus
of resistance (Espinoza and Guzmán, 2003; Guzmán, 2003). The
killings in Warisata unified and radicalized protesters throughout
the Altiplano, who reinforced the road blockades and declared
strikes, both in rural areas and in the neighboring cities of El Alto
and La Paz (Espinoza, 2003). For those in the streets contesting
This is a macabre reference by Andean nationalists to Túpac Amaru, the last Inca
leader, who led a rebellion against the Spanish invaders in the 16th century, and who
was eventually executed and drawn and quartered. The use of historical memory of
Andean resistance to foreign domination is as obvious as it is evocative.
Thanks to one of the anonymous reviewers for this insight.
T. Perreault, G. Valdivia / Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699 695
the government’s plans to export gas, the protests were not only a
struggle over natural resources, but over national resources as well.
Protesters denounced the way that structural inequalities, which
have marked Bolivian society throughout its history, were being
reproduced by plans to allow foreign firms to export what was
widely viewed as patrimonio nacional (Perreault, 2006). Mounting
pressure from protesters, the military, the Church, and various sec-
tors of civil society led Sánchez de Lozada to resign his office and
flee to Miami (Cortés Hurtado, 2003). His vice president, Carlos
Mesa, assumed the presidency but in June 2005 was similarly
forced to resign his office amid widespread opposition and debili-
tating protests, opening the way for new elections in December of
that year. Evo Morales Ayma, leader of the powerful coca growers
union and a former diputado (national deputy), was elected presi-
dent as head of the Movement to Socialism (MAS). With 54% of the
vote – nearly twice the total of his center-right rival – Morales be-
came the first president of indigenous heritage in Bolivian
4.3. Nationalist imaginaries and historical memory
On May 1, 2006, just four months into his presidency, Morales
held a press conference at the San Alberto natural gas field in the
southern department of Tarija. Surrounded by soldiers and journal-
ists from the national and international press, and with a banner
behind him declaring ‘Nacionalizado: Propiedad de Bolivianos’
(‘Nationalized: Property of Bolivians’), he announced Presidential
Decree 28,701, known as the ‘Heroes of the Chaco’ decree. As he
read his declaration, the military simultaneously occupied 56 nat-
ural gas installations throughout the country. As Webber (2006)
notes, such military theatrics served both practical and symbolic
purposes. On the one hand, the armed forces sought to prevent
documents being removed from the offices of hydrocarbons firms.
Thorough audits would have to be conducted to assess company
activities and profits in order to re-negotiate contracts. On the
other hand, the presence of the military signaled armed forces sup-
port for Morales and the nationalization plan, sending a message to
opposition activists that a coup was out of the question. Moreover,
military presence was a reminder of nationalizations under past
military regimes. As with these earlier, short-lived hydrocarbons
nationalizations, Morales’ declaration may be read as a repudiation
of foreign domination and a signal that the government intends to
use the nation’s natural resources for the benefit of Bolivian people.
The decree also draws explicitly on collective historical memo-
ries and spatial imaginaries. The name ‘Heroes of the Chaco’ is a
reference to the disastrous War of the Chaco (1932–35), which Bo-
livia lost to Paraguay, and in which the majority of Bolivia’s 57,000
casualties were Andean indigenous (Aymara and Quechua) con-
scripts. Though the causes for the war likely had more to do with
internal Bolivian politics and gross miscalculations by Bolivia’s cor-
rupt and inept political elite (Klein, 1992), the war has been retro-
spectively framed as a gallant defense of the country’s oil (and
more recently, gas) fields. Thus, the label ‘Heroes of the Chaco’ res-
onates both with Andean indigenous historical memory, which
views the war in terms of Aymara and Quechua sacrifices for the
nation, and with nationalist conceptions of sovereignty, rooted in
national and cultural patrimony (Orgáz García, 2002). Article 1 of
the decree thus declares, ‘‘The state reclaims the property, the pos-
session and the total and absolute control of these resources.” In
this reading, the Heroes of the Chaco decree is not a seizing of
property but the recovery of national patrimony lost (or given
away) by unpatriotic leaders (c.f. Laurie et al., 2002).
For Bolivian nationalists, natural gas has assumed the pride of
place once held by tin, and before that by nitrates and silver. There
is no doubting the economic importance of natural gas (and, to a
lesser extent, petroleum) for Bolivia: hydrocarbons represent Boli-
via’s single largest source of income, with revenues increasing from
$188 million in 2001 to over $1.5 billion in 2007 (Ministerio de
Hidrocarburos y Energía, 2006, cited in Gustafson, forthcoming).
But Morales’ Heroes of the Chaco decree draws symbolic force from
historical memory of domination by foreign and domestic elites,
indigenous sacrifice, and the discursive framing of natural gas as
patrimonio nacional. The policies of Morales and his MAS govern-
ment have been animated by the political discourses and popular
nationalist visions of those who struggled for years against white
elite domination and neoliberal policies (Albro, 2006a, b). Crucially,
however, these popular nationalisms are not the only forms of
political imaginaries at play in contemporary Bolivia. Political
and economic elites in the lowland commercial hub of Santa Cruz,
together with their allies throughout the lowland media luna (half
moon) departments and some cities of the Andean west, provide a
powerful, if stark, alternative vision (Gustafson, 2008). Similarly
rooted in accounts of natural resource exploitation, reflecting the
region’s economic dependence on its vast cattle ranches, soy plan-
tations, and oil and gas fields, cruceño aspirations to regional
autonomy represent a direct challenge to the popular nationalisms
that find purchase in the Andean west (Gustafson, 2006; Eaton,
2007). In the ongoing ideological, regional, ethnic, and class-based
struggles in which Bolivia is currently embroiled, hydrocarbons
and the rents they generate will continue to play a central role,
both materially and symbolically.
5. Hydrocarbons governance and the nation
When we talk about recovering our national patrimony, the
central questions remain: Who or what is the ‘nation’? What
would it mean to recover the control and management of
hydrocarbon resources ‘for the nation’? Who decides the mean-
ing, and who authorizes the voice, of the ‘nation’ that will take
charge of the reappropriation of natural wealth? (Olivera, 2004,
p. 155)
Decisions over the best ways of exploiting and commoditizing
hydrocarbon resources in the global South have been historically
handled by national governments and/or transnational capital,
contributing to an erasure of the specific geographies and histories
of resource producing regions. By contrast, the cases of hydrocar-
bon-related mobilization discussed here point to the existence of
powerful resource conflicts emerging from the encounters be-
tween the flow of ideas, capital and practices of fossil fuel capital-
ism and the specificities of place. Both the petroleum labor
movement in Ecuador and the various left social movements in Bo-
livia strongly oppose the effects of neoliberal policies on the
grounds that projects of privatization and a narrow focus on profit
in the hydrocarbon sector are detrimental to the well-being of na-
tional populations. Their actions (protests, strikes, blockades, occu-
pations) have aimed to de-stabilize hegemonic practices and
meanings associated with existing hydrocarbon economies and
highlight the power asymmetries reproduced through the neolib-
eralization of resource governance (c.f. Emel and Huber, 2008; Fer-
guson, 2006; Harvey, 2006).
The position of the hydrocarbon movements described here is
not solely one of resistance; Tsing’s (2005) concept of ‘‘friction” –
the awkward, unequal, unstable, and creative qualities resulting
from the contingent encounters of capitalist relations and the spe-
cific geographies and histories of place – is particularly apt for
describing the dynamics of hydrocarbon struggles in Ecuador and
Bolivia. The metaphor of friction alludes not only to how specific
Morales was re-elected on 6 December 2009, this time with 63% of the popular
696 T. Perreault, G. Valdivia / Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699
configurations of capital, nature, and national identity keep certain
power relations in motion, but also to how these can be disrupted
through alternative imaginative geographies of state-society rela-
tions. As the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia suggest, alternative imag-
inaries of ‘proper’ hydrocarbon governance articulate contests over
the material aspects of hydrocarbon production (e.g., extraction,
distribution of rents) with struggles over the meanings of develop-
ment, citizenship, and the nation (e.g., the objectives of national
policy). By imbuing citizenship with the responsibility to question
the governance of hydrocarbon resources, social movements in
Ecuador and Bolivia have drawn on and performed ‘‘political com-
munities” (Anderson, 1983) of petro-citizenship that are invested
in a continued exploitation of hydrocarbons, albeit in the context
of alternative hydrocarbon nations. Thus, the goal of opposing
hegemonic practices of hydrocarbon governance is not to stop pro-
duction or to abolish state structures, but rather to intervene in the
terms and intentions of such governance.
Although the dynamics of hydrocarbon conflict in Ecuador and
Bolivia superficially resemble one another, they also reflect distinct
geographies of properly ‘re-making’ the nation. In the Ecuadorian
case, opposition to hydrocarbon privatization is strongest at the sites
of petroleum transformation – refineries and the national petroleum
company. In contrast to Bolivia’s YPFB, whose union was severely
weakened when the company was broken up in the 1990s (Haarstad,
2009), FETRAPEC’s militancy prevented the privatization of Petroec-
uador. Although the firm was re-structured, workers retained their
jobs and were able to re-organize to defend the firm against further
attempts at neoliberalization. While labor organizing initially cen-
tered on concerns over wages and workplace, later mobilizations
had stronger links to the construction of a petro-nation, colored by
perceptions of Petroecuador as the motor of national modernity.
For example, petroleum union leaders refer to the production of a
‘‘national political consciousness” and of an obligation to oversee
the most appropriate mechanisms and institutions through which
to govern hydrocarbon rents. In their view, their close proximity to
the natural resource allows them to have a clearer understanding
of the internal politics of petroleum governance. In large part, their
efforts were successful, and built momentum within the movement
and reinforced their anti-privatization position. Their spectacles of
civic concern have aimed to make public the ‘hidden politics’ of cap-
italist practices and the interests of those considered unpatriotic.
Thus, their efforts to disrupt the changes taking place at the sites
and institutions of petroleum transformation – through strikes, ‘pro-
longed assemblies,’ militancy, newspaper ads, and organized pro-
tests in areas where public, petroleum, and state meet (e.g., gas
stations) – territorialize petroleum as a site of struggle over the col-
lective identity and interests of the nation and its citizens.
In the case of Bolivia, the ‘nationalization’ of gas fields in 2006
by the government of Evo Morales was also geographically situ-
ated, discursively linking the specific locales of production and
transformation (e.g., the physical occupation of gas installations
by the military) to a political project of national sovereignty that
‘rescues’ state leadership in matters of the sovereign nation’s terri-
tory. Similarly, the ‘recovery’ of national patrimony through
nationalization and its reference to the Heroes of the Chaco was
largely a public display of efforts to return sovereign control over
hydrocarbons to the recently elected indigenous-campesino gov-
ernment. As Tsing (2000) argues, these sorts of culturally specific
and geographically situated economies of representation are con-
stitutive of the reproduction of alternative collective imaginaries
of the nation vis-à-vis its population and the global community.
Both the Ecuadorian and Bolivian cases suggest that hydrocar-
bons and their governance shape meanings of the spaces and times
of the nation-state. Hydrocarbon struggles have materialized not
only in control over the technologies of transport, transformation,
and extraction – i.e., the sites from which to defend the interests of
the national community – but also in attempts to intervene in the
relationships through which ‘‘the oil complex” operates (Watts,
2004). Indeed, it is the specific configuration of petroleum firms,
state, and community that the petroleum labor movement and
indigenous/popular mobilizations are seeking to de-stabilize, in
an effort to produce or re-institute imaginaries of the nation that
reduce the power of foreign and ‘unpatriotic’ interests in favor of
national, sovereign communities.
In sharp contrast to the deterministic, reductive logic of the
environmental security and resource curse literatures, the cases
of Ecuador and Bolivia demonstrate that hydrocarbon production
is contested on both material and ideological terrains. Such con-
flicts cannot be reduced to simplistic models of opportunity struc-
ture, war profiteering, or resource scarcity (or its obverse, resource
abundance). Rather, to understand hydrocarbon conflicts and their
outcomes we must be attentive to their spatialities, the role of sit-
uated memories of territory and nation, and to the political econo-
mies that structure resource access. As we have argued here,
resource struggles are never only about resources. As the cases of
Ecuador and Bolivia suggest, political economy and cultural politics
are inseparable in resource conflicts, as contests over the distribu-
tion of rents and the objectives of national economic policy are in-
fused with struggles over the meanings of development,
citizenship and the nation itself.
6. Conclusion
Through a comparative analysis of Ecuador and Bolivia, we have
sought to illustrate the articulations of petro-capitalism, national-
ist ideologies and cultural politics in struggles over hydrocarbon
governance. We have focused on the dynamics of resource con-
flicts, the spaces and practices through which contestation of
hydrocarbon governance is conveyed to the larger public of the na-
tion, and the ways in which the histories of nations and popula-
tions shape the moral geographies of hydrocarbon-related social
movements. We have also highlighted the conjunctures of mobili-
zation (specific policies, political-economic measures, and encoun-
ters between global capital, state, and population) that have
influenced the material forms and social meanings of nation and
citizenship conjured by hydrocarbon movements in Ecuador and
Bolivia. As the cases suggest, these movements seek to restore state
sovereignty over petroleum by reclassifying capitalist spaces of
hydrocarbon production – refineries, concessions, pipelines – into
spaces of nation-making. This re-making of the nation occurs
through a redefinition of the relationship between state, popula-
tion, territory and resource (Radcliffe and Westwood, 1996). For
example, while neoliberal political and economic restructuring
sought to re-organize national companies, redraw concessions
and export routes, and draft new resource extraction laws to
facilitate the extraction of natural capital and encourage the con-
centration of financial capital outside the spaces of the nation,
hydrocarbon movements aimed to counter these processes by re-
centering hydrocarbon governance in the nation-state. Similarly,
the restructuring of CEPE and dismemberment of YPFB also fueled
protests because they were seen as reducing the responsibilities
and capabilities of the state in key socio-economic sectors. In Ecua-
dor, the conflict originated within the national company, as state
employees drew on their labor relations and political training to
oppose privatization. In Bolivia, opposition was led by popular
mobilizations seeking to put a stop to two decades of neoliberal
policies that had not improved the living conditions of the majority
The desire on the part of these and similar movements for continued hydrocar-
bons exploitation (albeit under state, rather than private, control), will no doubt
complicate attempts by international actors to reach consensus on efforts needed to
slow global climate change.
T. Perreault, G. Valdivia / Geoforum 41 (2010) 689–699 697
of Bolivians. In both cases, intervention in the status quo of hydro-
carbon governance turned into a territorial struggle that relied on
the ideological unification of nation and resource to fulfill the
promise of a sovereign that cares about the interests of citizens.
These struggles to defend the authority of the state over hydrocar-
bon matters are not meant to be a return to previous modes of sov-
ereign power, however. Rather, the collective imaginaries of the
nation invoked by hydrocarbon movements seek to carve out a
space for state authority that it is more closely aligned with what
they see as the interests of the population. In other words, these
social movements are positioned neither outside nor inside the
state or civil society, but traverse these social fields, opening new
spaces and understandings of the nation and citizenship (c.f. Hart,
Yet, while ‘re-making the nation,’ involves the possibility of
imagining new capital-state-population relations, the cases de-
scribed here also point out the crucial role of identity politics in
how such transformations take root. In both the Ecuadorian and
Bolivian cases, specific concepts, categories, and systems of repre-
sentation are appropriated and deployed in order to form a na-
tional consciousness in relation to hydrocarbons governance. The
politics of nation-making in these two cases converge in establish-
ing a ‘force’ against the idea of neoliberalized hydrocarbons gover-
nance, not in the historical trajectories or complex identities of
each of the social movements described, nor in the possible out-
comes of their imaginaries of ‘the nation.’ Moreover, their positions
blur the boundaries between state, capital, and population, albeit
in different ways: state employees represent themselves as mem-
bers of civil society to protest the practices of hydrocarbon gover-
nance in one case, civil society operates through the state to make
claims over such governance in the other.
What, then, are the implications of popular protest for what is
widely seen as the neoliberal restructuring of the hydrocarbon sec-
tor? It must be recognized that neoliberalism is never only an eco-
nomic project, but is, in a fundamental sense, a utopian ideological
project concerned with social order, ever in process and never
finalized (Harvey, 2005). Hydrocarbon movements aim to disrupt
the normative vision put forward by the advocates of neoliberalism
and replace it with an alternative (and equally utopian) vision of
social order and socio-natural relations. Our aim is not to read
these movements and their strategies as yet another case of the lo-
cal resisting global structures. Rather, we see them as illustrating,
first, the political and social content of what is understood as neo-
liberal restructuring, and second, the ways that the frictions of
hydrocarbon-generated capital shape its governance. In Ecuador
and Bolivia, neoliberal policies that re-structured the terms of
hydrocarbon governance were opposed on nationalist grounds. In
both cases, social struggles over oil and gas focused not on eco-
nomic policy per se, but on how such policies give meaning to cit-
izenship, development and the nation. Protest movements in
Ecuador and Bolivia exposed the limits of the neoliberal project;
but if there are limits to neoliberalism, so too are there limits to
populist politics and utopian nationalisms. Ideas about the nation
and citizenship may, in this sense, be considered an example of
what Hall (1986) refers to as a ‘‘politics without guarantees.” As
such, their connection to struggles over natural resources are not
fixed and may follow various trajectories based on competing con-
structions of national governance. In both Ecuador and Bolivia,
ongoing structural dependence on oil and gas rents necessitates
expanded hydrocarbon production, which in turn requires contin-
ued foreign involvement in the hydrocarbon sector (Kohl and Far-
thing, 2009). The contradiction between utopian nationalisms, on
the one hand, and structural dependence on international capital
and foreign hydrocarbons firms, on the other, will surely continue
to generate frictions well into the future. How these frictions play
out is a history yet to be written.
The authors would like to thank Scott Prudham and the three
anonymous reviewers for their criticism and guidance. We are
grateful to Suzana Sawyer, Terence Gomez and the United Nations
Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) program in
Identities, Conflict and Cohesion, and to Chaly Crespo and Ida Peña-
randa of the Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios (CESU) in
Cochabamba for funding and support with the Bolivia portion of
this study. Thanks also to the University of Minnesota, the MacAr-
thur Interdisciplinary Program on Global Change, Sustainability,
and Justice, and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for
supporting the research conducted in Ecuador. In Ecuador, special
thanks to Marcela Benavides, Marcelo Román, and FETRAPEC for
their insightful contributions and contagious passion for change.
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Infrastructures and their roles and connections to and in territories and territorialization processes have increasingly become objects of study in political geography scholarship. In this contribution, we build on these emerging insights and advance them by further conceptually disentangling the agential role of infrastructure. We bring together the notions of territory, governmentality, imaginaries and subjectivities, to clarify how exactly hydraulic infrastructure acts to transform relations between space, people and materiality. We start by introducing territorialization as a process of ‘ordering things’ in a certain space and time through different techniques of government. When then show how, at the base of such territorialization processes, are imaginaries that contain normative ideas about how space and socio-territorial relations should be ordered. Imaginaries are consequently materialized through hydraulic infrastructure through the inscription of morals, values and norms in infrastructure design, construction and operation. This set of materialities and relations embedded in infrastructure brings changes to the existing relations between space, water and people. In particular, we highlight the repercussions of infrastructure for how people understand and relate to each other, the environment, water, technology and space: in other words, how subjectivities change as an effect of hydraulic infrastructure constitution. Last, we show how infrastructure and the related hydrosocial territories that develop around it are a dynamic arena of contestation and transformation. We argue that socio-material fractures, emerging counter-imaginaries and the disruptive capacities of subjectivities constantly challenge the ‘fixes’ that infrastructures aim to inscribe in hydrosocial territories. Throughout the paper, we use empirical examples from recent research on hydraulic infrastructure and territorial transformations to ground the conceptual ideas.
... Rights over large-scale subsurface resources for hydrocarbons, minerals and concessional timber rights are common, and typically worked out through state concessions and complex sharing agreements. Because nation states typically assert subsurface rights, allocation and auction of such rights to international consortia (and sometimes with national partners) occurs widely, even if the lands and resources associated with such concessions are occupied by people whose livelihoods, lives, resources, cultures and histories can be dramatically undone by these actions (Finer et al. 2008;Perreault and Valdivia 2010;Valdivia 2015;Bebbington et al. 2018a; see also Chapter 18 on the Ecuador case study). The impacts on local populations can involve displacement, destruction of critical resources or subsistence resources like fish and tree crops, resource theft, contamination, introduction of disease, as well as cultural assaults including violence, local enslavement and attacks on women, leaders and forest guardians. ...
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This Report provides a comprehensive, objective, open, transparent, systematic, and rigorous scientific assessment of the state of the Amazon’s ecosystems, current trends, and their implications for the long-term well-being of the region, as well as opportunities and policy relevant options for conservation and sustainable development.
... The hallmarks of 'post-neoliberal' or Pink Tide politics included the expansion of social rights and increased public spending, greater regulation of markets and the construction of a type of state capable of overseeing the construction of a 'neo-developmental' model of political economy (Grugel & Riggirozzi, 2012;Levitsky & Roberts, 2011;Macdonald & Ruckert, 2009). The scholarly literature on the Pink Tide has assessed specific topics and issues, for example, agriculture and food politics (Vergara-Camus & Kay, 2017), oil and mining policies (Haslam & Heidrich, 2016;Perreault & Valdivia, 2010), health care and social protection (Riggirozzi, 2020). Moreover, contributions to the literature have advanced different theoretical approaches and questions, from renewed debates around dependency theory to colonial legacies in contemporary epistemologies (Antunes de Oliveira, 2019;Escobar, 2010). ...
A central issue in the scholarly literature on the Latin American Pink Tide is the renewal of state-led development, or neo-developmentalism, and dependence on primary resources or the so-called resource curse. In this article, we consider the question of neo-developmentalism during the Pink Tide and state capacity, analyzing whether the three ‘radical’ Pink Tide governments in Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia were able to achieve their respective neo-developmental political objectives. We employ a comparative approach building on the theory of ‘broadened embedded autonomy’ as conceptualized by Peter Evans. We argue that while reliance on resource extraction posed a challenge for the construction of state capacity for Pink Tide governments, national-level differences help explain why some governments were relatively more successful than others at inducing neo-developmentalism. A comparative approach focused on the politics of state-society thus provides a promising analytical framework for interpreting variations across cases.
Resumen: La clasificación oficial de pendientes está relacionada con una agricultura intensiva moderna, la cual está en contra de las condiciones ecológicas, económicas y prácticas sociales de la Amazonía. Se propone una clasificación de usos del suelo, adaptadas a estas condiciones. 6.7% del área del Bosque Protector Sumaco (BPS) pertenece a pendientes pronunciadas cumpliendo con lo estipulado en la ley. La hipótesis de que la creación de las Áreas Protegidas limitarían las actividades agropecuarias fue rechazada, lo cual contradice a lo que establece la Ley. El Parque Nacional Sumaco se ha mantenido inalterable durante este período, mientras que el Parque Nacional Napo Galeras ha experimentado una deforestación del 1.8%. El Patrimonio Forestal del Estado ha cambiado su cobertura forestal en14.8%. La cúspide de deforestación observada en el BPS fue en 1997. Una recuperación de la cobertura forestal y un retroceso de las actividades agropecuarias para el año 2005 es indiscutible. Palabras Clave: Bosque Protector, clasificación de pendientes, parque nacional, patrimonio forestal del estado, uso del suelo Protected areas as a contribution to sustainable development: The case of Sumaco protective forest, Ecuador Abstract: The official classification of slopes is strongly related with a modern, intensive agriculture, which in many cases is against the ecological conditions and economic and social practices in the Amazonian region of Ecuador. A proposition of soil classification is offered, adapted to these conditions. 6.7 % of the Protected Forest Sumaco (PFS) actually conforms to requirements described by law. The hypothesis that the creation of the Protected Areas would limit agricultural activities was rejected, which contradicts what is specified by the Law. The National Park Sumaco has stayed unalterable during this period, while the National Park Napo-Galleras has experienced a deforestation of its area (1.8%). On the other hand, the Forest Patrimony of the State has diminished its forest cover in a total of 14.8%. The PFS peak of deforestation observed was of 55.8% the year 1997. However, a recovery of the forest cover and a setback of agricultural activities for the year 2005 is unquestionable (33.1%). Áreas protegidas como uma contribuição para o desenvolvimento sustentável: Sumaco caso de floresta protegida, Equador Resumo: O ranking oficial de encostas está relacionado com a agricultura intensiva moderna, que é contra as práticas ecológicas, econômicas e sociais da Amazônia. Nós propomos uma classificação de uso da terra, adaptados a essas condições. 6,7% da área florestal protegida Sumaco (BPS) está em conformidade com as disposições íngreme na lei. A hipótese de que a criação de áreas protegidas seria limitar as atividades agrícolas foi rejeitado, que é contrária às disposições da Lei Sumaco Parque Nacional manteve-se inalterada durante este período, enquanto Napo Galeras Parque Nacional sofreu um desmatamento 1,8%. O Estado património florestal
In recent decades, as the frontiers of extraction have expanded to an unprecedented scale, natural resources have become a key area of anthropological interest. This chapter reviews some of the main contributions of this work and engages in a conceptual discussion around the notion of natural resources, defining them as the cultural form through which capital and the state relate to nature as manageable matter ready to enter production. Arguing both against the view of natural resources as fixed and given and against constructivist understandings that underplay the workings of nature, I propose a political ecological approach, attentive to both mental and material processes, that places emphasis in the analysis of history and power. This approach is illustrated through the presentation of a series of case studies, which help reveal the distinctive temporalities, spatial configurations, value relations and affects linked to natural resource extraction.
Many developing countries continue to rely on export‐oriented growth strategies based on primary commodities, despite the many limitations of such policies. The persistence of this model is inherently related to the dominance of ‘commodity imaginaries’. This article focuses on Argentina, an emblematic case of commodity dependency, where the soybean imaginary has dominated for the past 30 years. This imaginary has framed mainstream understandings of Argentina's path to growth and progress, shaped political contestation and ensured that a particular understanding of science and technology sits at the centre of the meaning of national development. In the process, it has transformed the country's geography in ways that normalize soy's dominance and invisibilize people and places located at the margins of the imaginary. The soybean imaginary renders a deeply political project of economic growth as ‘common sense’. This article concludes that closer attention to the way national development projects are shaped, consciously and unconsciously, by commodity imaginaries could help explain the puzzle of how national governments can become locked into development choices that are environmentally unsustainable and that reproduce inequalities.
Long-distance oil and gas pipelines undergo great changes in natural environments and geographical conditions along length. Inadequate communications provided limited and vague information about accidents. Scattered emergency resources need adequate response preparations to reduce recovery time after an accident. Examining historic similar cases in the database in order to propose effectual accident responses is worth studying. In emergency response case-based reasoning (CBR), information on new accidents, such as type, degree, hazard object, etc. need to be as detailed as possible. The anticipated quality and efficiency of traditionally case recommendations might have been directly negatively influenced, by the delayed and ambiguous information available from new pipeline accidents. Thus, to fully extract the required information, and to minimize limitations on reasoning caused by a lack of accident information, this study proposes an accident Case Representation Model. The model contains: (i) an accident features dataset featuring a bipartite graph from hundreds of pipeline cases, and (ii) cases vectorization obtained by applying graph representation learning. As a result, (iii) recommendations of any new accident can be given based on similar case responses. In order to examine the accuracy of the recommended results, a relative similarity concept is proposed, showing that the proposed model's recommendation accuracy is basically maintained at 96.7%. Compared to other case vectorization methods, the accuracy increased by 4%–23%. Taking a block valve failure accident as a case study, this model expands on two related scenarios: overpressure in upstream pipeline and interruption of communication system. The supplementary responses increase the preparation comprehensiveness.
Metabolisms of energy in society and space are predicated upon human labour, in ways that are often poorly recognized in relation to the global climate challenge. I synthesize and interrogate existing scholarship on the relationship between energy and labour across different spatio-temporal contexts, so as to reveal the overlapping networks that bind energy workers, consumers and producers. Drawing upon geographical, feminist, social practice and political ecology insights, I propose a research agenda that foregrounds the role of social reproduction – through capital-labour regimes and the gendered division of labour – in shaping the circulation and contestation of energy use.
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Taking as his case-study the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador, where 600,000 people lack easy access to potable water, Erik Swyngedouw aims to reconstruct, theoretically and empirically, the political, social, and economic conduits through which water flows, and to identify how power relations infuse the metabolic transformation of water as it becomes urban. These flows of water which are simultaneously physical and social carry in their currents the embodiment of myriad social struggles and conflicts. The excavation of these flows narrates stories about the city's structure and development. Yet these flows also carry the potential for an improved, more just, and more equitable right to the city and its water. The flows of power that are captured by urban water circulation also suggest that the question of urban sustainability is not just about achieving sound ecological and environmental conditions, but first and foremost about a social struggle for access and control; a struggle not just for the right to water, but for the right to the city itself.
The two economic engines that have powered the world through the global recession that set in after 2001 have been the United States and China. The irony is that both have been behaving like Keynesian states in a world supposedly governed by neoliberal rules. The US has resorted to massive deficit-financing of its militarism and its consumerism, while China has debt-financed with non-performing bank loans massive infrastructural and fixedcapital investments. True blue neoliberals will doubtless claim that the recession is a sign of insufficient or imperfect neoliberalization, and they could well point to the operations of the IMF and the army of well-paid lobbyists in Washington that regularly pervert the US budgetary process for their special-interest ends as evidence for their case. But their claims are impossible to verify, and, in making them, they merely follow in the footsteps of a long line of eminent economic theorists who argue that all would be well with the world if only everyone behaved according to the precepts of their textbooks. But there is a more sinister interpretation of this paradox. If we lay aside, as I believe we must, the claim that neoliberalization is merely an example of erroneous theory gone wild (pace the economist Stiglitz) or a case of senseless pursuit of a false utopia (pace the conservative political philosopher John Gray), then we are left with a tension between sustaining capitalism, on the one hand, and the restoration/reconstitution of ruling class power on the other. If we are at a point of outright contradiction between these two objectives, then there can be no doubt as to which side the current Bush administration is leaning, given its avid pursuit of tax cuts for the corporations and the rich. Furthermore, a global financial crisis in part provoked by its own reckless economic policies would permit the US government to finally rid itself of any obligation whatsoever to provide for the welfare of its citizens except for the ratcheting up of that military and police power that might be needed to quell social unrest and compel global discipline.
'Imagined Communities' examines the creation & function of the 'imagined communities' of nationality & the way these communities were in part created by the growth of the nation-state, the interaction between capitalism & printing & the birth of vernacular languages in early modern Europe.
Neoliberalism--the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action--has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.
In 1972 Ecuador began to produce and export petroleum in the Amazon interior, and the formulation and execution of the petroleum policy became central to the political life of the nation. The nation's armed forces seized political power that same year and continued to rule until the reestablishment of democratic pluralist government in 1979. In this book, John D. Martz probes the differences and similarities between military authoritarianism and democratic pluralism through an analysis of the politics of petroleum in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian experience provides an ideal laboratory to test the policymaking characteristics and the overall performances of the two regimes ideal-types. Martz uses a textured and detailed analysis of global oil companies and nationalist politics to trace the growth and evolution of Ecuador's petroleum industry. The course of partisan and sectoral politics and the internal workings of military politics are also examined. Against this interplay of politics and the nationalistic struggle against multinational pressures, Martz compares policymaking under military and civilian government. "John D. Martz" is a professor of political science at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author and editor of more than a dozen books on Latin American politics and was the editor of the "Latin American Research Review" from 1975 to 1980.