On November 9, 2022, the collaborative research project Extractivism.de organized a second internal fellow workshop in Marburg, bringing together the first round of visiting researchers based on both Marburg and Kassel universities. The meeting focused on the main conceptual differences and similarities between how rents and extractivism are discussed in Latin America and the Maghreb. The Extractivism.de team and the fellows detected the comparative venues for discussing extractivism as a phenomenon beyond regional particularities.
The first fellow cohort is currently in Kassel and Marburg to discuss the many theoretical and methodological approaches for grasping extractivism as a concept that can transit from one region to another. Our visiting guests, from Latin America and the Maghreb, are taking advantage of this collaborative project to share ideas, discuss working papers, and interlink their different studies and research designs – seeking pathways to develop cross-area analysis. This way, the meeting on November 9 was the third of its kind, as we already held one workshop at Kassel University and an International Annual Conference in October 2022, also in Kassel.
To organize the discussion, we centered on three texts: Introduction: The Political Economy of Extraxtivism (Warnecke-Berger and Ickler, forthcoming), Structural Reform, Economic Order, and Development: Patrimonial Capitalism (Schlumberger, 2008), and Dependency, Rent, and the Failure of Neo-Extractivism (Burchardt Dietz, Warnecke-Berger, 2021). The idea was to identify a common thread among these three different readings. It became clear, once more, that societies that depend on rents are, more often than not, permeated by specific characteristics that make their insertion in global capitalism distinct. The workshop discussed, therefore, how we can conceptually and theoretically make distinctions between capitalism and extractivism, why this is necessary and which are the benefits of making this conceptual distinction for the goals of the overall research project.
This way, the workshop was highly favorable for the project’s progression. By creating these transdisciplinary and cross-area spaces, we make provocations: in which ways is one region exceptional and not? Which are the different priorities that each world region’s literature has focused on? To what extent have these scholarly priorities only been a reflection of the same phenomena (dependency on rents) but that, so far, have not been approached as such? While we all agreed that the specialized literature for both Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa has developed in different directions, we also see that comparing them can bring much-needed new light on the causes of extractivism persistence. Therefore, each fellow brought to the table different problems relevant to their analysis – such as social inequality, elite behavior, statehood, militarism, colonialism legacy, use of nature, corruption, social-political exclusions, and class formation. Our principal investigator, Prof. Dr. Rachid Ouaissa (Philipps University of Marburg) and the project coordinator, Dr. Hannes Warnecke-Berger (University of Kassel), lead the discussion forward, producing a comparative table that should be a base for the transregional comparison our project are promoting – being particularly crucial to the transregional work of our two post-doctoral researchers, Luíza Cerioli (University of Kassel) and Dr. Camila Ponce Lara (Philipps University of Marburg).
We defined some key points to move forward as a collective research project. First, we agree that colonial legacy is essential to understand extractivist societies, even if – or especially if – different types of colonial states in each region drove to distinct configurations. Second, we detected that different social classes play similar roles in the context of extractivism in both Latin America and the Maghreb, which motivates us to find new methodological tools that enable comparisons based on the social function of the actors beyond their classical definitions. Third, we realized that similar phenomena happened in the countries we are exploring in different historical times, opening our project to the idea that comparisons can be made non-anachronistically. Finally, it became clear that it is necessary to find theoretical grounds that enable the investigation of formal and informal institutions to understand how power flows within extractivist societies and how rents are distributed.
Therefore, this third meeting outlined much of our objectives with the first fellow cohort. As a result, we agree on factors that are essential for the analysis in both cases, reduced certain expectations on exceptionalism and focused on the grounds for comparing extractivism in the two regions. Furthermore, seeing both regions as part of the Global South, we reasoned that many structural factors are caused by their long-standing social and economic dependency on the rents from extractivist activities. Finally, pinpointing what can the Latin American extractivism literature bring to the MENA region’s rentier state theory and vice versa, we set grounds for the innovation of our project, which, in its essence, is urging these two regions to talk.