Resource Radicals

From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 15 illustrations Published: August 2020

Author: Thea Riofrancos

Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies > Andes, Politics > Political Theory

In 2007, the left came to power in Ecuador. In the years that followed, the “twenty-first-century socialist” government and a coalition of grassroots activists came to blows over the extraction of natural resources. Each side declared the other a perversion of leftism and the principles of socioeconomic equality, popular empowerment, and anti-imperialism. In Resource Radicals, Thea Riofrancos unpacks the conflict between these two leftisms: on the one hand, the administration's resource nationalism and focus on economic development; and on the other, the anti-extractivism of grassroots activists who condemned the government's disregard for nature and indigenous communities. In this archival and ethnographic study, Riofrancos expands the study of resource politics by decentering state resource policy and locating it in a field of political struggle populated by actors with conflicting visions of resource extraction. She demonstrates how Ecuador's commodity-dependent economy and history of indigenous uprisings offer a unique opportunity to understand development, democracy, and the ecological foundations of global capitalism.


Resource Radicals is an insightful and ultimately optimistic interpretation of social mobilization around natural resource extraction in Ecuador. Thea Riofrancos eschews simple resource curse theory, viewing mobilization as a potential pathway toward more productive modes of governing extractive industry. Sensitive to both anti-extractivist and ‘Pink Tide’ approaches to resource extraction, she offers a nuanced analysis of resource politics and the complex challenges facing regimes that seek to govern the subsoil for progressive change.” — Anthony Bebbington, coauthor of Governing Extractive Industries: Politics, Histories, Ideas

“This is a valuable, sensitive, and generous study of the new shapes that left politics has taken in the twenty-first century as crises of ecology and inequality swirl together. It's an essential basis for understanding the challenges ahead.” — Jedediah Purdy, author of This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth

"[Riofranco's] scholarship is an example of internationalist solidarity in critical practice, the kind to which we may all aspire, and to which our current moment demands." — Hilary Goodfriend, Jacobin Magazine

"By examining how activists envisioned a post-petroleum future, Riofrancos transcends the superficial debates on the legacy of the Pink Tide and, in turn, helps chart a path forward for creating a society as equitable as it is ecological." — Jared Olson, Los Angeles Review of Books


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Thea Riofrancos is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Providence College and coauthor of A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction: Resource Radicalisms  1
1. From Neoliberalismo to Extractivismo: The Dialectic of Governance and Critique  29
2. Extractivismo as Grand Narrative of Resistance  57
3. Consulta Previa: The Political Life of a Constitutional Right  77
4. The Demos in Dispute  115
5. Governing the Future: "Information," Counter-Knowledge, and the Futuro Minero  138
6. Conclusion: The Dilemmas of the Pink Tide  164
Notes  185
Bibliography  227
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