Authoritarian populism and neo-extractivism in Bolivia and Ecuador: the unresolved agrarian question and the prospects for food sovereignty as counter-hegemony

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The new economic flows ushered in across the South by the rise of China in particular have permitted some to circumvent the imperial debt trap, notably the ‘pink tide’ states of Latin America. These states, exploiting this window of opportunity, have sought to revisit developmentalism by means of ‘neo-extractivism’. The populist, but now increasingly authoritarian, regimes in Bolivia
and Ecuador are exemplars of this trend and have swept to power on the back of anti-neoliberal sentiment. These populist regimes in Bolivia and Ecuador articulate a sub-hegemonic discourse of national developmentalism, whilst forging alliances with counterhegemonic groups, united by a rhetoric of anti-imperialism, indigenous revival, and livelihood principles such as buen vivir. But
this rhetorical ‘master frame’ hides the class divisions and real motivations underlying populism: that of favouring neoextractivism, principally via sub-imperial capital, to fund the ‘compensatory state’, supporting small scale commercial farmers through reformism whilst largely neglecting the counterhegemonic aims, and reproductive crisis, of the middle/lower
peasantry, and lowland indigenous groups, and their calls for food sovereignty as radical social relational change. These tensions are reflected in the marked shift from populism to authoritarian populism, as neo-extractivism accelerates to fund ‘neodevelopmentalism’ whilst simultaneously eroding the livelihoods
of subaltern groups, generating intensified political unrest. This paper analyses this transition to authoritarian populism particularly from the perspective of the unresolved agrarian question and the demand by subaltern groups for a radical, or counter-hegemonic, approach to food sovereignty. It speculates whether neo-extractivism’s intensifying political and ecological contradictions can foment a resurgence of counter-hegemonicmobilization towards this end
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)626-652
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Peasant Studies
Issue number3
Early online date25 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Peasant Studies on 25/03/2019, available online:

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


  • authoritarian populism
  • Bolivia
  • counter-hegemony
  • Ecuador
  • food sovereignty
  • Populism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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