From Into the Black Box
This article is a draft version of a paper published for WOLG (Work Organisation Labour Globalisation), Vol. 13, No. 1, Logistical Gazes. Spaces, labour and struggles in global capitalism
Con la nozione di ‘operations of capital’, centrata sull’interazione tra le dimensioni della finanza, dell’estrazione e della logistica, autori come Mezzadra e Neison hanno fatto luce sul alcune ‘trasformazioni sotterranee del capitalismo’ che vanno ben oltre un’idea generica di neoliberismo come ‘circolazione egemonica di dottrine economiche e processi di deregulation e finanza’.
L’obiettivo di questo articolo é analizzare la forte articolazione di finanza, estrazione e logistica in America Latina con un focus sulla creazione di nuovi corridoi infrastrutturali nel continente durante la ‘terza fase’ dell’egemonia neoliberista nella regione. Questo articolo mette insieme elementi teorici provenienti dalla letteratura dei cosiddetti ‘critical logistics studies’ con un insieme di altre prospettive teoriche come quelle provenienti da autori come David Harvey, Giovanni Arrighi, Michel Foucault e Saskia Sassen; e fa interagire questo background teorico con la realtá latinoamericana, utilizzando categorie proprie della letteratura latinoamericanista e fonti documentarie e adottando una prospettiva trans-disciplinare.
With the notion of ‘operations of capital’, focused on the interaction between the dimensions of finance, extraction and logistics, authors such as Mezzadra and Neilson have highlighted some ‘underlying transformations of capitalism’ that go well beyond a generic idea of neoliberalism as ‘the hegemonic circulation of economic doctrines or processes of deregulation and governance’.
The aim of this article is to investigate the strong articulation of finance, extraction and logistics in Latin America by focusing on the creation of new infrastructural corridors in the continent during the ‘third phase’ of neoliberal hegemony in the region. This article brings together elements from the so-called ‘critical logistics studies’ literature with a range of other theoretical perspectives, including insights from the work of David Harvey, Giovanni Arrighi, Michel Foucault and Saskia Sassen. It applies this theoretical background to the Latin American reality, drawing on regional-specific literature and general data using a trans-disciplinary perspective.
In recent years, the concept of logistics has developed as an important theoretical lens for the analysis of contemporary capitalist transformations. In Latin America, however, this perspective has remained largely unexplored, despite growth in the planning and construction of important infrastructural projects and corridors, the multiplication of special economic zones and the rapid emergence of platform and ‘just in time’ economies throughout the entire region.
This is due, partially, to the overwhelming importance, in Latin America, of the concept of neoextractivism 1 and the so-called ‘Commodities Consensus’ (Svampa, 2013) and its necropolitical logic. Originally taking the form of the extraction of natural resources from the territory, primarily minerals and hydrocarbons, and on their large-scale exportation abroad in the form of commodities, this idea has recently been productively extended to other sectors (e.g. agribusiness, cellulose, fishing, also tourism) and to other social realms (e.g. to cities, via the phenomenon of gentrification). As a result, even the construction of infrastructure is now largely considered in the Latin American literature to be, almost exclusively, an extractive operation which has a significant impact on the territory as well as on the dispossessed populations, without considering its fundamental role in the advent of so-called supply chain capitalism.
In a recent article, Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson (2015:1) proposed to connect the logic of extractivism and extraction both to finance, whose growing tendency is ‘to penetrate and subsume economic activity and social life as a whole’, and to logistics, ‘the art and science of organizing the turnover of capital to maximize efficiencies of transport, communication, linking, and distribution’. These two authors suggest that it is important to understand the way in which extraction, finance, and logistics interact and coexist in contemporary capitalism by using the concept of ‘operations of capital’, with an operation seen as ‘a moment of connection and capture that exhibits the materiality of even the most ethereal form of capital’.
We argue here that such an approach can be extremely powerful for capturing some interesting issues and analytical mediations that have, until now, remained hidden, despite the development of the concept of neoxtractivism, which draws attention to the extractive dimension at the expense of other dimensions of logistics and finance which articulate with extraction. At the same time, we also consider the emergence of a strong articulation of extraction, finance, and logistics as a specific pattern of what we call the ‘third neoliberal moment’ in Latin America, the first phase being that of dictatorships and monetary shifts during the late 1970s/early 1980s which served as a kind of ‘shock therapy’ that led to the brutal conclusion of the previous ISI (Import Substitution Industrialisation) model, and the second phase being the period of ‘transition’ to democracies that were managed by a series of new think tanks and international organisations in alliance with the USA.
Mezzadra and Neilson (2015:1) also observe that ‘many analyses that makereference to the concept of neoliberalism in a generic sense point to the hegemonic circulation of economic doctrines or processes of deregulation and governance without really taking stock of the underlying transformations of capitalism’. An analysis of the historical path of neoliberalism in the region and of its conflicts and discontinuities will enable a new way of understanding these transformations through both the endogenous and exogenous dynamics and tendencies that have been shaping capitalism in Latin America. If we understand that extraction, finance and logistics are, in fact, the emerging dimensions of today’s global scale capitalism, this approach in no way denies the unevenness of this development, or the historical, social and geographic specificities it incorporates.