- Resource Booms and Institutional Pathways: The Case of the Extractive Industry in Peru ed. by Eduardo Dargent et al.
Though formally an edited collection, Resource Booms and Institutional Pathways is the product of a collective intellectual endeavor linking scholars and (former) students at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. La Católica has become one of the most interesting centers of interdisciplinary research on extractivism in Latin America, and this book reflects the combination of innovative thinking, empirical sensibilities and merging of theory and political insight that has underlain so many of the contributions that have emerged from the university. That this work has been done at La Católica itself reflects the degree to which Peru was one of the "leaders" in the mineral investment boom that has come to affect so much of Latin America over the last two decades. This book takes that boom as its period of analysis, and asks how sustained investment in the "new" mining has interacted with patterns of institutional change in the public sector. In pursuing this question, the book speaks directly to theories of institutional change that, while drawn primarily from political science and sociology (Kathleen Thelen, Peter Hall, Doug McAdam, Peter Haas etc.), have much relevance for geographers who are interested in state building, environmental governance, contentious politics, and uneven development.
As they analyze patterns of institutional change over the last two decades, the authors prefer to talk of "institutional regime" rather than simply of "institutions" understood as "the rules of the game." This is because, they argue, "[l]aws only become institutions in the proper sense of the scholarly definition, when state actors and/or social forces put their power and weight behind them" (p. 178–9). Rule enforcement is, then, every bit as important as rule-making, and such enforcement depends on the relative capacities of state, civic, and private sector organizations to roll out or resist changes in the rules that govern the mineral sector. The notion of "institutional regime" is intended to capture this combination of rules and organizational capacities. The authors make a useful distinction between institutional regimes related to "benefits management" and "costs management" linked to extractives. They focus their analysis on those regimes for "benefits management" that involve the collection, redistribution and spending of taxes generated by resource extraction, as well as the more specific case of fiscal transfers for investment in provincial universities in areas with the presence of tax-paying resource extraction. On the "costs management side" they consider institutional regimes linked to environmental regulation, conflict management, and community consultations (though consultation is also seen as part of benefits management).
The individual chapters are a very good read. While they probably speak more to Peruvianists than to anyone else, they include [End Page 233] much that is of relevance for ongoing challenges and contention in the region as a whole. Thus, while grounded in the Peruvian experience, the chapters throw important light on how Ministries of Environment have been created and resisted; environmental regulations governing mining can be tightened, contested, and unraveled; fiscal systems that transfer substantial parts of extractive industry tax payments back to mining regions can emerge and then become self-reproducing in ways that constrain further innovation in fiscal practice; and human rights agencies within the state can be strengthened and become important sources of transparency, accountability and public debate over extractivism. These are vital insights for scholars and activists alike who share an interest in the conditions under which "better government" might emerge. And for those who need inspiration, the chapter on the Defensoria del Pueblo should do the job: against the odds, this is an institution that has made a profound difference to the regulation of extraction and extractive industry conflicts in Peru, and the analysis throws light on how that became possible, albeit with avances y retrocesos. For...