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Imaginaries of Soy and the Costs of Commodity‐led Development: Reflections from Argentina

Maria Eugenia Giraudo and Jean Grugel

Development and Change, 2022, vol. 53, issue 4, 796-826

Abstract: Many developing countries continue to rely on export‐oriented growth strategies based on primary commodities, despite the many limitations of such policies. The persistence of this model is inherently related to the dominance of ‘commodity imaginaries’. This article focuses on Argentina, an emblematic case of commodity dependency, where the soybean imaginary has dominated for the past 30 years. This imaginary has framed mainstream understandings of Argentina's path to growth and progress, shaped political contestation and ensured that a particular understanding of science and technology sits at the centre of the meaning of national development. In the process, it has transformed the country's geography in ways that normalize soy's dominance and invisibilize people and places located at the margins of the imaginary. The soybean imaginary renders a deeply political project of economic growth as ‘common sense’. This article concludes that closer attention to the way national development projects are shaped, consciously and unconsciously, by commodity imaginaries could help explain the puzzle of how national governments can become locked into development choices that are environmentally unsustainable and that reproduce inequalities.

Date: 2022
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