This article examines similarities and differences in the development of the oil industries of Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela through an analysis of the struggles and alliances between their elites, political classes, and diverse popular forces. The analysis demonstrates that although history has produced popular skepticism over the meaning of the state's claim that “our oil belongs to the people,” a popular imaginary of the potential link between national resource sovereignty and social justice has had powerful historical effects. Despite the structural differences between these cases, it remains today at the center of emergent alternatives that cannot be dismissed simply as a return to the populism of the past. While its main significance in Mexico to date has been to impede persistent efforts to privatize the industry, in the cases of Venezuela and Brazil we may now talk of significant possibilities for building a more multipolar world economic order.
Nationalism, globalization, and the possibility of another country in Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela
A tribute to Monique Nuijten
I first met Monique at the Colegio de Michoacán, when she was doing fieldwork in Jalisco for her doctoral thesis. We shared interests in both Mexican land reform communities and political anthropology generally and continued to exchange ideas back in Europe. I felt privileged to be invited to be one of the examiners of her thesis in Wageningen, which was awarded a far-from-routine cum laude distinction. I reported to the committee that I judged her work equally outstanding for its depth of ethnographic enquiry and for its theoretical contributions. It reached a much wider audience than specialists on Mexico after being condensed into her book Power, Community, and the State. Here, however, I want to focus on some of Monique's later research, on the urban periphery of Recife, Brazil. By a happy coincidence, our mutual interests converged again in Brazil, where I was working on the urban periphery of Salvador, Bahia, in collaboration with Dr. Maria Gabriela Hita of the Federal University of Bahia; but it is not because of professional links or the deep personal affection that Monique inspired in all her friends that I want to discuss her Recife studies. It is because they confirm that she remains a “presence that does not end,” the wonderful title chosen for the online event paying homage to all her contributions that the Colegio de Michoacán organized in March 2021. Monique's research is highly relevant to the current conjuncture in Brazil, shaped by the 2016 “parliamentary” coup and subsequent election as president of Jair Bolsonaro, whose regime is now regularly accused of being genocidal as well as ecocidal. Since Bolsonaro's popularity is waning and the Supreme Court has drawn a line under the “lawfare” that blocked ex-president Lula of the Workers’ Party (PT) from standing against him in the 2018 election, the return of a more civilized government under Lula's leadership now seems a possibility. Yet for that very reason, Monique's critical analysis of the PT in power in Recife offers us vital lessons about the limitations such a government would need to transcend to eliminate the enduring structural foundations of social injustice.
Global Corporatism against Society
John Gledhill, Jane Schneider, Peter Schneider, Ananthakrishnan Aiyer, and Cris Shore
On 2 December 2001, four days after its credit rating had been downgraded to junk bond status, the Enron Corporation of Houston, Texas, filed the biggest bankruptcy petition in the history of the United States. On the 14 March 2002, Enron’s accountants, Arthur Anderson, were indicted by a federal grand jury on the criminal charge of obstruction of justice for “knowingly, intentionally and corruptly” inducing employees to shred documents relating to Enron. Enron was thus both a stock market bubble that burst and a perpetrator of frauds that involved the complicity of many outside the company itself. The fraud element turned Enron from a flagship of the “new economy” into a “corporate scandal,” the first of several. By the end of 2002, the distinction of being the United States’ biggest bankrupt company had passed to the telecoms giant, Worldcom. When Worldcom’s accounting fraud was originally identified in June 2002, its scale was estimated at $3.8 billion. Six months later it was clear that the misreporting was vastly higher, a staggering $9 billion. The New York Times headlined the affair thus: “The Latest Corporate Scandal is Stunning, Vast and Simple” (Eichenwald and Romero 2002).
Some Critical Perspectives
Bruce Kapferer, Marshall Sahlins, Keith Hart, Jonathan Friedman, Allen Feldman, Michael Humphrey, Ibrahim Aoude, Michael Rowlands, John Gledhill, and Leif Manger
The World Trade Center disaster is an event of such significance that it exhausts interpretation. This is not because of the enormity of the event itself. Numerous humanly caused destructed of just the last hundred years dwarf it in scale, and the attention now addressed to it may over the next year appear disproportionate. But events are never significant in the imagination of human beings independently of the way they are socially constructed into significance in the context of the social, political and cultural forces that somehow are articulated through a particular event, and thrown into relief by its occurrence. Undoubtedly, much of the significance that attaches to the World Trade Center catastrophe relates to the character of the conflict it defines, and the several paradoxes the event gathers up in its prism: of the strong against the weak, the powerful as victims, the cycle of revenge, the generalization of suffering, the vulnerability of technological potency, and so on.
Ananthakrishnan Aiyer, Janis Bailey, Sarah Baker, Gerry Bloustien, Richard Daly, John Gledhill, Bruce Kapferer, Diane Losche, Di McAtee, Barry Morris, Val Napoleon, Sarah Pink, Jane Schneider, Peter Schneider, Cris Shore, and Benjamith R. Smith
Notes on Contributors
Ibrahim G. Aoude, Sandra Bamford, Mark T. Berger, Doug Dalton, Allen Feldman, Jonathan Friedman, John Gledhill, Richard Handler, Keith Hart, Michael Humphrey, Dan Jorgensen, Bruce Kapferer, Clive Kessler, Leif Manger, David A. B. Murray, Joel Robbins, Michael Rowlands, Marshall Sahlins, Elizabeth Stassinos, Marilyn Strathern, Karen Sykes, and Souchou Yao
Notes on contributors