- Spaces of Capital / Spaces of Resistance: Mexico and the Global Political Economy by Chris Hesketh
In a world of ever-growing nationalist protests against globalization, it is sometimes overlooked in the West that resistance in the non-Western world is commonly led not by the disenfranchised working class but by indigenous communities in rural areas. Chris Hesketh's Spaces of Capital / Spaces of Resistance highlights how interlaced scale and globalization are in shaping the agency and opposition of native populations in Mexican rural states against the construction of globalized spaces of capital.
By focusing on the indigenous rebellions in the two southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas since the 1990s, Hesketh's research goal is to explore "spaces of resistance, understand why they have risen, and synthesize what they mean for comprehending (geo)politics today" (2). He argues that in order to understand these movements and their corresponding constructions of new geographical relations of power, one must understand not only history but also scale. The global political economy, Latin American regional positionality, Mexican state formation, and economic development all contextualize these movements. The author employs a historical-geographical sociology methodology, incorporating all three of these branches of knowledge to provide a more holistic understanding of the local situation and shed light on the international circumstances of indigenous movements. Indigenous agency is emphasized to demonstrate those communities' continued significance in Latin American development.
Chris Hesketh is a senior lecturer in international political economy at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. Since obtaining his PhD from the University of Nottingham, he has pursued his interrelated research interests in the geographic development of capitalism, especially in regard to uneven and combined development in the global economy. For this book, he applied an extended case method of fieldwork in both Mexican states, which enabled him to connect the micro to the macro, extending scale outward. This is reflected in the presentation of material in the book. Chapters concerning nation and region contain data and charts, while those regarding the states have photographs of daily life and interviews. [End Page 249]
The book's chapters progress smoothly and logically by level according to the author's argument. The first chapter presents the abstract level that discusses the spatial features of capitalism. The subsequent chapters are scalarly ordered: Latin America, Mexico, and then the two states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. With frequent citations from the works of Marxist theorists Antonio Gramsci, David Harvey, and Henri Lefebvre, Hesketh's scalar analysis historically examines Latin America and Mexico's incorporation into the world economy through colonialization and later debt resettlement as a form of hegemony, which reverberated scalarly. In Mexico the hegemonic political party, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), and its Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) policy, the fostering of domestic industrialization, brought together different social classes under one roof. The economic policy, however, was in fact financed by exportation. The government borrowed heavily to support the export infrastructure, which eventually led to debt default in the 1980s. This precipitated a new form of spatial reorganization required by the International Monetary Fund bailout.
Hesketh's argument then transitions internally into Mexico. Globalizing neoliberal policies compelled changes in Mexican society. The ejidos, communal property enshrined by the PRI, were privatized, and tariffs were lowered to allow more foreign direct investment. In the two states this translated into "clashes of spatializations" (137), where spatial organizations based on capital and indigenous life vied for control. In Oaxaca many municipalities converted control to local assemblies, usos y costumbres, and social movements organized themselves to fight against government plans to transform land to support international tourism. Counterspaces of resistance were established in Chiapas as well. With the breakdown of the ejidos, the PRI lost the support of the local indigenous communities, which switched their allegiance to the rebel Zapatista movement. The Zapatistas established their own autonomous communities based on indigenous traditions of community assemblies. The government...