, VI Conference of BRICS Initiative of Critical Agrarian Studies

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The rise of authoritarian corpopulism under convergent global crises
Alberto Alonso-Fradejas

Last modified: 2018-12-14


The current debate on populist political regimes has rightly focused on the ultra-conservative authoritarian wave sweeping Latin America and the world. Does this mean authoritarian forms of government are only reserved for those living in countries under charismatic right-wing populist leaders? And is it only through such iron-fist rulers that authoritarian populism unfolds? In short, no; there is more to authoritarian populism today, and the role of transnational financiers and corporations intimately linked to the state and hegemonic classes is an important part of the story. Authoritarian populism today is rooted in, and unfolds under, convergent climate, energy, environmental, food and financial global crises. And authoritarian populism and the convergent global crises are not unrelated phenomena but rather mutually shape and express each other.

In Guatemala, a long history of despotic and violent populist rulers embarked in a transition to liberal democracy some 30 years ago. Since 2005, and amid convergent global crises, sugarcane and oil palm plantations and processing plants have spread like wildfire. This is led by national white oligarchic-bourgeois owners of flex cane and palm companies with thick ties to foreign capital. The restructuring of the agricultural relations of production that results from the rise of these flex crops and commodities complexes, as well as the political dynamics behind such an occurrence, underpin what I call the agro-extractive capitalist project. This form of agrarian capitalist of extractivist character is enabled by an authoritarian corpopulist political agenda. This agenda recasts flex cane and palm commodity production from just another business project into a response-able phenomenon capable of tackling vital threats for humanity and the planet. By legitimizing flex cane and palm commodity production through consent-seeking strategies, and recurring to force when needed, dissent is suppressed and accommodations forged. The result is a new politics of racialized class domination, namely authoritarian corpopulism, which trajectory is still to be seen.


agro-extractive capitalism, authoritarian corpopulism, convergent global crises, politics of agro-environmental change

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