Neoliberalism, Nature, And Buen Vivir: Diverse And Divergent Pathways To Living Well In Ecuador
MetadataShow full item record
Through a case study of buen vivir in Ecuador this paper considers the challenge of building post-capitalist alternatives and reimagining wellbeing as separate from economic growth in the context of globalization. Buen vivir is an adaptation of the Quechuan concept sumak kawsay, meaning to "live well" which rests on preserving (or regaining) a state of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. The "living well" of Andean indigenous societies differs from the "living better" of industrialized civilization insofar as it must not come at the expense of others or the environment. I contend that buen vivir emerges out of a longer history of neoliberal development and colonialism in Latin America and provides a pathway from which to transcend the legacy of these systems. I argue that the incorporation of buen vivir into Ecuador's 2008 constitution and its national development plan is more an attempt at moulding buen vivir to fit with existing state structures than at remaking those structures in a fashion that resonates with the ethos of buen vivir. I claim that many substantive differences exist between the state's reading of buen vivir and indigenous understandings of sumak kawsay and that these are a source of contradictions in the policies and programs seeking to operationalize alternatives to conventional development models in the country. Through considering recent decisions over oil, mineral, and water governance, I suggest that the state pursues an export-driven growth model dependent on the extraction of raw materials that leaves Ecuador's submissive form of insertion in the global market unquestioned. While the insertion of sumak kawsay into Ecuadorian political discourse by no means bridges the Andean and Western cultural worlds nor does it transcend the ontological divide between humans and nature, it frees the state to think outside of dominant economic and political narratives. I conclude that buen vivir's success depends not on its realization of a post?capitalist and post- colonial order, but on its ability to prepare the ground from which such alternatives can take root.