Limits to “counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia
Diego Andreucci Isabella M. Radhuber
The expansion of resource extractivism in Latin America in the last decade has been related to previous neoliberalisation processes, which opened-up mineral exploitation to transnational firms and granted investors favourable conditions. Extractivism, however, expanded equally (or more) in countries which have undertaken “counter-neoliberal” reform—as it is most clearly the case for Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Building on regulationist approaches and strategic-relational state theory, this paper analyses recent changes in the governance of Bolivian mining. It contributes to understanding how and why the Morales governments’ objectives to initiate a transition towards a more plural and diversified economy—informed by social movements—have not been achieved to date. We make three interrelated claims. First, the expansion of mining has been enabled by the maintaining of institutional arrangements for mineral exploitation established during neoliberalism, favouring transnational firms and self-employed (“cooperative”) miners over state-owned and community-managed operations. Second, despite the new government’s improved legal framework for the promotion of environmental and indigenous rights, the mining sector has continued to benefit from de facto lax environmental regulation, which constitutes an indirect incentive to expansion at the expense of ecologies and indigenous–peasant livelihoods. Third, the state has played a central role in weakening social resistance to mining expansion, by demobilising those social forces—particularly peasant–indigenous organisations—whose proposals and demands conflicted most clearly with extractivist development. We suggest, therefore, that analysing changing state–society relations is central to understanding the counter-neoliberalisation of resource governance and its limits.