Special report. Grounded companies and the role of states
Companies, territories, and political authorities: Localizing the analysis of extractive capitalism
By Jacobo Grajales, Guillaume Vadot

Two decades after the beginning of the last commodity boom, what is the state of political authority in places dedicated to the extraction of raw materials and often seen as new frontiers of capitalism? By taking mining, oil, metallurgical, and agribusiness sites—and the companies that come along—as fields of investigation, the contributions gathered in this special issue are a testament to the failed endeavor of bounding the state to the mere role of a broker, charged with facilitating the operations of international capital. This introduction outlines a synthetic view of the multiple processes that are responsible for the social and political anchoring of extractive companies, most often despite these latter’s intentions. The historical perspective granted by the almost three decades passed since the great wave of privatization and liberalization of the 1990s enables a more accurate view of these extractive spaces; one that is attentive to longer term trends and everyday life. Nurtured by local mobilizations, a variegated panel of forms of representation and authority have sometimes gained a certain autonomy from companies and have even been able to successfully invoke statehood in their quest for legitimacy. In that sense, we argue that these firms can seldom be described through the popular image of extractive “enclaves.” As a matter of fact, these incremental processes tend to strengthen their embeddedness within larger political topographies.

  • capitalism
  • company
  • political topographies
  • commodities
  • local authorities
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