State and Infrastructural Power in Latin America

Authors: Murat Arsel*, International Institute of Social Studies - Erasmus University Rotterdam, Lorenzo Pellegrini, International Institute of Social Studies - Erasmus University Rotterdam
Topics: Development, Environment, Economic Geography
Keywords: infrastructure, state, Latin America, Ecuador, Amazon
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 32
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Much of the recent critique of Latin American infrastructural turn has focused on infrastructural investments' failure to generate (local) economic growth, their negative environmental impact, and their symbolic power in enabling authoritarian forms of governance that seek to erase socio-cultural diversity. This paper looks beyond these discussions to analyze the enduring commitment of Latin American states to infrastructural project despite their well-documented failures. In so doing, we highlight the autonomous power of the state to ask what infrastructural projects achieve from the perspective of the state. We highlight two related dynamics. First, infrastructural projects have the power to generate the type of political communities that are govern-able by a centralized and hierarchical state machinery. Second, they help the state insert itself - or rather, its governing logic - into (civil) society, structuring state-society relationships in such a way that consent can be created via a set of policies that presuppose the necessity of the state. We illustrate these arguments with examples from the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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