Critical oil politics / Governing oil in left turn Latin America

My research into ‘critical oil politics’ and the ‘governing of oil’ through ‘21st century socialist’ or ‘left turn’ oil policies and programs in South America —chiefly, Venezuela’s Petrocaribe and Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Initiative—, focuses on the role played by a series of novel technical and economic artefacts or devices born of socialist expertise that have emerged together with these programs’ equally innovative oil political practices (e.g. ‘petrobartering’ and the ‘oil moratorium’). The research project is concerned with both the novel technical or ‘technopolitical’ economic knowledges and petro-formulas that calculate distribution or produce forms of value and debt, and, more generally, construct a specific reality for political economy or socio-technical world, and with the equally innovative oil political practices the latter accompany. These practices, knowledges and technical artefacts embody, I claim, a socialist or left turn ‘language of value’ for oil. Furthermore, the governing of oil (i.e. the deployment of these novel practices, techniques and the development of these forms of expertise) puts into play particular forms of enacting and assessing the relations between ‘nature’, ‘society’ and ‘the economy’.

In addition, the governing of oil in the cases of Petrocaribe and the Yasuní-ITT Initiative embodies and deploys specific ‘processes of equalisation’ between the particular constructs of ‘nature’, ‘the social’ and ‘the economy’ present in the practices and knowledges the projects assemble. I refer to this general phenomenon as the ‘distribution of the political’. It is in this manner that my research while focusing on the technical knowledges and expertise translating and innovating 21st century socialist oil governance, seeks to analyse the making political of oil and the making of the political through oil.

The research project is interdisciplinary in nature and builds theoretically and methodologically on critical international political economy (IPE), science and technology studies (STS), social studies of the economy, and is itself a contribution to Latin American studies and postcolonial modes of inquiry in international relations (IR).

Disciplinary areas

Political science, international relations, international political economy, science & technology studies, social studies of the economy, Latin American studies, social and political theory, postcolonial studies

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Reading Venezuela

Turmoil, Betsy Jones
The situation in Venezuela is, once again, being analysed in the political media as things heat up. Greg Grandin in The Nation has asked a couple of well-known Leftist researchers on Venezuela to briefly offer their perspectives on the current situation. Over in The Conversation, Marco Aponte-Moren and Lance Lattig offer a different assessment that echoes the more common portrayal and narratives on Venezuela.

I certainly think it is important to underscore the difficult and real day-to-day situation Venezuelans live in the name of a democracy to come, but writings on Venezuela cannot merely do this. It is critical to emphasise the broad shift in doing politics that has taken place and what is indeed politically at stake in Venezuela after 15 years of ‘revolución bolivariana’. The current set up may well be muddling 21st century socialism for the many versus rentierism + neoliberal wealth for the few; we can work with and critique the former, but only resist the latter.

The hopeful analysis, here, and the sobering reading through here.