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About this book

This book addresses the intersection of extractivism, populism, and accountability. Although populist politics are often portrayed as a driver of poor environmental governance, Populist Moments and Extractivist States identifies it as an intervening variable at best – one that emerges in response to the accountability deficits of extractive states. Case studies in Venezuela – for many, the prototypical petrostate – and Ecuador – which exchanged agribusiness dependency for oil decades later – illustrate how extractive states are oriented by a colonial logic of export and service. This logic regulates state-society-nature relationships and circumscribes avenues for local stakeholders to hold public officials and extractive industries to account for environmental and human harms. Populist moments of the early 21st century across Latin America responded to these conditions, promising more equitable and sustainable futures. However, rather than reversing the technocracy, verticalism, and exclusion of the recent past, populist moments often intensified and legitimated them in the drive to maximize and distribute resource rents. The result has been cyclical, as populist moments of hope and rupture fall prey to the extractivist states they tried, and failed, to replace.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. The People’s Oil?

Abstract
This chapter introduces the key interventions of the book. We argue that extractivist states engender democratic accountability deficits due to the requirements of trade and aspirations toward development. They establish state–society–nature dynamics that restrict participation and exact a heavy toll on the environment. Populist political sequences respond to these exclusionary and unequal dynamics. Although populism is often portrayed as a driver of poor environmental governance, we identify it instead as an intervening variable at best—one that emerges as a response to the democratic accountability deficits that characterize extractive states. However, once in power, populists often intensify rather than reverse the technocracy, verticalism, and exclusion of extractive states in order to increase and more widely distribute resource rents. As a result, extractivism gains a powerful, popular, and legitimating mandate despite its negative social, environmental, and economic consequences. By examining the experience of Venezuela and Ecuador, this book identifies the constraints and opportunities for environmental action as peoples and states attempt to balance state–society–nature relations imposed by extractive modes of development.
Teresa Kramarz, Donald Kingsbury

Chapter 2. The Limits of Populism as Causal Explanation

Abstract
This chapter introduces Latin American populism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In the first section we examine economic, political, and critical approaches to populism’s relationship with liberal democracy, a common concern throughout the literature on the topic. These approaches, we argue, explicitly or implicitly carry a teleological and ultimately Eurocentric bias of “democratization” that understands populism as a pathological condition of underdeveloped peoples and places. Among other problematic attributes, these accounts miss the interdependencies between populism and extractivist state formations. Extractivist states, we argue, better explain the sort of democratic accountability gaps that engender populist reactions. In the second section, we explore in greater detail how ostensibly populist sequences relate to political and ecological accountability. The chapter concludes with a call for rethinking populism along several dimensions and as nested within the broader context of extractivism.
Teresa Kramarz, Donald Kingsbury

Chapter 3. The Self-Reinforcing Effects of the Extractive State

Abstract
This chapter examines the constraints placed on political and environmental action by extractive states. Building on our critical assessment of populism in Chapter 2, we acknowledge populism is a backlash to social inequality that has been justified by sedimented layers of political exclusion. However, in a departure from the critical explanations of populism, we develop an analytical framework that highlights the powerful limits that the extractive state imposes on opportunities to breathe new life into stagnant political institutions and support sustained environmental action.
Teresa Kramarz, Donald Kingsbury

Chapter 4. “The Devil’s Excrement”: Venezuela as the Prototypical Extractive State

Abstract
This chapter traces the history of the extractive state in Venezuela from its origins in the early twentieth to early twenty-first centuries. From the dictatorships of the early years into the semi-democratic puntofijo years, political elites pursued a development strategy based in a modernizing, technocratic, and exclusionary worldview, one that is distrustful of a citizenry deemed too unrefined for the needs of state and industry. During these years, Venezuelan extractivism’s influence expanded significantly. However, the social peace the extractivist state purchased could not survive the changing political and economic terrain of globalization. The resulting implosion and nearly 20 years of austerity created the conditions that made Hugo Chávez’s ascent and the Bolivarian Revolution possible. The final substantive section of this chapter explores the “progressive extractivism” of the Chávez years. In this, the continuities of the Bolivarian era with its extractivist predecessors are perhaps as striking as the social changes it enacted, and the catastrophic way in which it imploded.
Teresa Kramarz, Donald Kingsbury

Chapter 5. The Citizen’s Revolution and the Failure of an Alternative Environmental Moment in Ecuador

Abstract
This chapter investigates the Yasuní-ITT Initiative in Ecuador as a puzzle for populist and commodity-determined accounts of Latin American politics and development. We begin with a deceptively simple question: why would Ecuador choose to incur economic costs to contribute to biodiversity and climate change benefits? The case of Yasuní represents a hard case because we are confronted with a poor country that depends on oil as its main export, has converted to a dollar-based economy, and requires currency that can only be acquired through exports, yet launches a global initiative to forego exploiting a large oil reserve if only partially compensated by the international donor community. Even in its failure, we argue, Yasuní demands a rethinking of accepted political rationalities in Ecuador and perhaps beyond.
Teresa Kramarz, Donald Kingsbury

Chapter 6. Extractive States and Prospects for Environmental Action

Abstract
This conclusion most explicitly draws out the comparative lessons to be learned in the cases of Ecuador and Venezuela. Extractive states rather than the actions of charismatic leaders are key to understanding social, political, and environmental dynamics in both countries. Populism is a symptom or response to extractivism, not the other way around. We summarize our argument that democratic and accountability deficits associated with populist moments in the Americas predate the Chávez and Correa administrations and persist after the end of their terms. If anything, in their early moments both presidents embodied hopes, long percolating among largely dispersed and local movements in their respective countries, of a mode of state–society–nature relations other than the verticalism, exclusion, and extractivism that defined political culture across democratic and authoritarian regime types alike in both countries. Endogenous and exogenous factors ultimately deflated these hopes in both cases, lessons which enhance our understanding of populist moments and extractivist states in the Americas and beyond.
Teresa Kramarz, Donald Kingsbury

Backmatter

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