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Market Reforms, Resource Extraction, and Social Movements in Bangladesh

Thursday, March 5, 2020
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Mackintosh-Corry Hall
Room: D214
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This talk will highlight social movements against foreign investment-driven resource extraction projects in Bangladesh. In this country, as elsewhere, left-leaning political groups have mobilized against market-oriented energy policy reforms. Scholarship on contested market reforms in the Global South considers these social protests through Polanyi’s theory of double movement. This scholarship, although helpful in analyzing anti-corporate social protests in the neoliberal era, says little about the Bangladeshi case of market reforms in the energy sector and the oppositional mobilizations responding to these reforms. Since the late 1970s, market reforms in Bangladesh have largely gone unchallenged. Thus, the mobilizations against foreign investment-driven resource extraction projects are puzzling. I draw on the scholarship on political economy and institutional causes of development to make nuanced sense of this puzzle. I argue it is not market reform (i.e., the neoliberal orthodoxy of the Washington Consensus) per se that triggers Bangladeshi anti-corporate social movements. Extractive political institutions and the corruption of political and bureaucratic elites are more significant drivers. More specifically, activists’ perception that extractive political institutions, a corollary of a specific political settlement, fail to reap the ostensible benefits of market reform for the masses shapes their framing of grievances and their movement agenda.




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