- Neo-Extractivism in Latin America: Socio-environmental Conflicts, the Territorial Turn, and New Political Narratives by Maristella Svampa
Maristella svampa's latest book provides an insightful primer on one of the most salient concepts in Latin American environment and development politics today: neo-extractivism. Neo-Extractivism in Latin America is part of Cambridge University Press's new Cambridge Elements series on Politics and Society in Latin America (edited by Maria Victoria Murillo, Juan Pablo Luna, Tulia G. Falleti, and Andrew Schrank), which aims to offer abridged, multidisciplinary perspectives on important topics and challenges facing the region. In her contribution to the series, Svampa, a sociologist at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina, analyzes the political dynamics of neo-extractivism, positing an eco-territorial approach to understanding the language, epistemologies, and actions of socio-environmental movements that have emerged in resistance to the extractive model of development.
Acknowledging the long history of extractivism in Latin America, from colonial conquest to the commodities consensus and developmentalist (or eldoradista) illusion of the present day, Svampa first characterizes contemporary neo-extractivism as a particular mode of accumulation "based on the over-exploitation of natural goods, largely nonrenewable, characterized by its large scale and its orientation toward export, as well as by the vertiginous expansion of the borders of exploitation to new territories, which were previously considered unproductive or not valued by capital" (pp. 6-7). Drawing from the influential work of geographer David Harvey, the author points to a deepening of the dynamics of dispossession – namely of goods, people, and territories – under the neo-extractive model. More than a development model, however, neo-extractivism for Svampa is also a lens to analyze politics, [End Page 294] human rights, and socio-ecological crisis in the Anthropocene.
Accordingly, the second chapter focuses on the escalation of socio-environmental conflict, state and parastatal violence, and human rights violations that has accompanied the proliferation of mega-development projects through the various phases of neo-extractivism. In particular, Svampa highlights the well-known cases of the TIPNIS road in Bolivia, the Belo Monte dam in Brazil, and petro-development in the Yasuní region of Ecuador, among other conflicts and networks of mobilization against extractive activities that have surfaced in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Argentina. Territory – "as a space of resistance and also, progressively, as a place of reappropriation and creation of new social relations" (p. 27) – is central to the author's analysis of social movements, which cites numerous critical geographers on the concept, including Bernardo Mançano Fernandes, Carlos Walter Porto Gonçalves, Rogerio Haesbaert, and Robert Sack.
The book's main contribution comes in the third chapter, wherein Svampa proposes an eco-territorial turn to describe the frameworks of collective action that have organized around the defense of land and territory throughout the region, drawing from the knowledge, articulations, and experiences of diverse actors, especially Indigenous and feminist. The author suggests that while certain concepts within the eco-territorial turn like el buen vivir have been co-opted to align with the eco-socialist and developmentalist paradigms of progressive governments, others – such as the commons, the rights of nature, and the relational approaches of the ontological turn (as in the work of Viveiros de Castro) – provide social movements with "languages of valuation" that promote "other ways of building the link with nature, and other narratives of the earth that recreate a relational paradigm based on reciprocity, complementarity, and care" (p. 41). Echoing wider calls to action, the author considers pathways for transitioning to a post-extractive model through public policies and alternatives to development offered by movements such as agroecology and other social and solidarity economies. Despite the contradictions and limitations of the progressive political cycle in Latin America, as well as the resurgence of many conservative, right-wing governments, the author concludes on a note of hope that these...