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Post-neoliberal energy modernity and the political economy of the landlord state in Ecuador

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Thomas F. Purcell, Estefania Martinez

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-21
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Early online date21 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

King's Authors


This paper offers a value-theoretic critique of ‘post-neoliberal’ energy production in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian government is attempting to end the dependence on finite hydrocarbon resources and unite energy infrastructure with industrial competitiveness through the transformation of the country’s ‘energy matrix’. Based on extensive field research, we argue that the project reveals the contradictions of the landlord state’s attempt to mobilise circuits of ground rent and foreign debt to create cheap energy as a comparative advantage for national industrial development. Riding high on global commodity prices and tapping into a huge stream of Chinese investment, the government massively increased investment in new sources of hydroelectricity and energy infrastructure. Whilst ostensibly bringing about a reduction in energy production costs, this has come at the price of leveraging the country’s natural resources (oil and minerals) and, paradoxically, creating an oversupply of hydroelectricity. Drawing on a Marxist reading of the landlord state and tracing the flows of ground rent, capital and energy we reveal how, far from the claims of post-neoliberal modernity, the project is in fact deepening resource dependence by channelling hydroelectricity towards the nascent Ecuadorian mining frontier.

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