Development, Capitalists and Extractive Rent: Class Struggles in Venezuela and Ecuador
Chiasson-LeBel, Thomas Gregoire
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Through a relational class perspective, this dissertation compares the evolution of the development models in Venezuela and Ecuador since the 1970s to better understand the significance of the recent turn to the left. Based on field research in both countries comprising extensive interviews with representatives of social movements and business interest groups, it studies the main class organizations, their struggles, and their relation with the state in order to shed light on the dynamics of change in the development models pursued in each country, and the role that extractive rent plays within them. While governments associated with the pink tide in Venezuela and Ecuador were not elected under similar economic contexts, they faced comparable political conditions. In particular, both countries faced situations where class struggle adopted a particular form as popular classes lost their coordination, and the capitalist classes had significant influence over the state. In response to the challenge these conditions represented, left governments attempted to increase the capacity of the state to act with more autonomy through the adoption of new constitutions and the reassertion of state ownership over extractive resources to pursue a rent-based social-developmental model. This involved the use of extractive rent for redistributive measures and as a leverage to foster economic diversification. A comparative perspective on social classes shows how a united capitalist class in Venezuela, adopting a confrontational stance, pushed the state to rely increasingly on its role as a dispenser of rent. By contrast, a regionally divided capitalist class in Ecuador reacted less combatively, and led the Ecuadorian state to follow a social-developmental model more supportive of private initiative for economic diversification. In both cases, however, the governments put in place strategies aimed at gaining control over the responses of the popular sector. As opposed to discussions of populism, focusing on the irrational relationship between the leader and its followers, or approaches that focus on categorizing different kinds of left governments, or even perspectives that stress the determining role of natural resources, this dissertation analyzes class struggles as a crucial factor to understanding the transformation of the state and of the development model it pursues.