Thea Riofrancos

On Friday, August 21, we were joined by Thea Riofrancos, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Providence College, and co-author of A Planet to Win: The Case for a Green New Deal. Our JFI Research Session focused on her recently-released book, Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador.

From the book’s description:

“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. [Riofrancos] 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.”

The lessons from her research included the importance of nuance in the popular discourses around the “resource curse” of economies dependent on the export of particular raw materials, and specifically the idea that such resource-dependencies produce authoritarianism. In the case of Ecuador and some other Latin and South American contexts, waves of progressive governments in the Pink Tide and after produced varied government structures notwithstanding great natural resource dependencies. In Ecuador, major social programs, including a cash transfer, the bono de desarrollo humano, along with myriad other social welfare programs, dramatically reduced poverty rates in the country, while funded by oil revenues within a democratic governance structure.

Riofrancos also discussed the significant ways indigenous groups and coalitions like CONAIE were effective at transforming the discourse around natural resources and the trade-offs of extraction. Her interviews with government officials within the Correa administration provide a unique and illustrative picture of the left’s influence on leftist governments. She emphasized the importance of the left in power and the leftist social movements that vie with them as both playing key roles in the transformation of resource allocation for greater social welfare.

Watch a full recording of the session here, and the full book can be purchased here.

Many warm thanks to Thea for joining us, and thank you to all of our guests for a fantastic book talk and research session.