Resources for Reform
Oil and Neoliberalism in Argentina
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"In this rich and compelling ethnography, Elana Shever explores how the oil sector in Argentina has reconfigured itself and the lives of its workers and communities. With great insight and nuance, Shever details how neoliberalism—as much as the oil industry—is made and remade through laboring, learning, communicating, playing, and caring. A major challenge to how we think about not only the corporate world of hydro-carbon capitalism but of neoliberalism itself, Resources for Reform is a gem."—Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley
"Resources for Reform presents a rigorous, nuanced ethnography of how a diverse array of actors were actively involved in reshaping their families, communities, and selves during the privatization of Argentina's oil industry. In tracing the ways in which private corporations built upon kinship bonds nurtured by the preceding state-owned industry, Shever demonstrates convincingly how affective and calculative techniques of governance are merged in supposedly rational regimes of rule. This impressive study scrutinizes the material practices and meanings of both the production and consumption of oil in Argentina to effectively challenge theories of global transformation that overlook the continuities between neoliberal regimes and those they have supplanted."—Sylvia Yanagisako, Stanford University
"Resources for Reform delivers an intrinsically interesting story about oil and neoliberalism in a country where some of the loudest responses to neoliberalism have been heard. Shever takes a critical look at the oil industry and the practices of oil companies like Shell—providing a clear, compelling exploration of the multiple sides of neoliberalism in Argentina. A major contribution."—Steve Striffler, University of New Orleans
"Some of the best work I have read on neoliberalism, citizenship, and affect. After tracing the ways that sentiments among workers were central to the construction of Argentina's petroleum-led national economic project, Shever makes a surprising argument: neoliberal privatization reforms of the 1990s, usually characterized as producing individualized rationalities of calculation, were also made possible by the continued deployment of such kinship relations."—Nancy Postero, University of California, San Diego
While most people live far from the sites of oil production, oil politics involves us all. Resources for Reform explores how people's lives intersect with the increasingly globalized and concentrated oil industry through a close look at Argentina's experiment with privatizing its national oil company in the name of neoliberal reform.
Examining Argentina's conversion from a state-controlled to a private oil market, Elana Shever reveals interconnections between large-scale transformations in society and small-scale shifts in everyday practice, intimate relationships, and identity. This engaging ethnography offers a window into the experiences of middle-class oil workers and their families, impoverished residents of shanty settlements bordering refineries, and affluent employees of transnational corporations as they struggle with rapid changes in the global economy, their country, and their lives. It reverberates far beyond the Argentine oil fields and offers a fresh approach to the critical study of neoliberalism, kinship, citizenship, and corporations.
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