The extractive imperative in Latin America

Murat Arsel*, B Hogenboom, Lorenzo Pellegrini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)
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One of the main features of contemporary development politics in Latin America is the prominent role of the state. Another feature is the intensification of natural resource extraction. This extractivist drive is especially pronounced in the countries that are part of the ‘turn to the left’, which have at the same time played host to alternative development approaches. While Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador have become emblematic of these processes, their impact can be felt across much of the region.

These changes have emerged within a particular context in which the electoral successes of the leaders in power have been underwritten by promises to eradicate what has been seen as the two cardinal sins of neoliberal policies: poverty and inequality. Eschewing aggressive redistribution, they have sought to achieve redistributive extractivism accompanied with largely expanded expenditure for social policies.

An ‘extractive imperative' was thus borne as natural resource extraction came to be seen simultaneously as sources of income and employment generation and financing for increased social policy expenditure. According to this imperative, extraction needs to continue and expand regardless of prevailing circumstances, with the state playing a leading role and capturing a large share of the ensuing revenues.

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