Volume 44, Number 174,
July-September 2013

Modes of Development, Territorial Organization and Constituent Changes in Ecuador, Ana María Larrea Maldonado, 2nd ed., National Ministry for Planning and Development, Quito, 2012.

As neoliberalism became more apparent in Latin America and the world, development as an objective, theory and discussion began to fade into the background. However, as specialists would say, the global economic system of the current century based on self-regulating markets has entered into a deep crisis.

Throughout nearly two decades as a republic, Ecuador has gone through various economic and political stages, in an effort to become a consolidated nation. Still, a primary export pattern has always been a part of its economy, alongside significant territorial asymmetries and regional fragmentation.

In the context of the crisis, the concept of development is crucial to creating new ways of producing, consuming and organizing life. Ana María Larrea's work outlines some alternatives that do not necessarily meld with current development models, which have led more to inequality than to economic benefits for Ecuador.

The author emphasizes how Rafael Correa's win in 2006 paved the way for new hope in "building a society and generating a new mode of development, centered around human beings, rather than the market, and addressing the deep inequalities present in Ecuador." To do so, one government strategy has been to recover the State, both on the national and local levels, to achieve "good living" by espousing a new type of inclusive, supportive, egalitarian and sustainable development.

As mentioned in the prologue of the book, "Ana María is not only studious, she is also a direct protagonist," which allows her to analyze the type of State being molded in the new policies of Ecuador from a different point of view, in terms of the relations between local, intermediary and national levels of government.

The book consists of an introduction and three chapters, "A Discussion of Development," "The State and Territorial Configuration in Ecuador" and "Territory, Decentralization and Development."

The first chapter reflects on the different concepts of development and the repercussions of these ideas in different time periods. These include the theory of modernization in the 1950s, theories of dependence in the 1970s, the resurgence of neoliberal proposals and the neoliberal boom in the 1980s and the regulatory proposals of the 1990s that do not always fit into a theory, including concepts of humanitarian and sustainable development.

Unlike contemporary concepts of economic progress, the important idea here is what people can "do and be" rather than what they can have.

This concept is much closer to what indigenous Andean people would call sumak kawsay, a full life, seen from a cyclical, rather than linear, perspective of time. This vision consists of achieving overall harmony with the community and the cosmos. It is of note that as a result of contributions from diverse sectors of society, especially the indigenous movement, some of these ideas on “good living” are reflected in the Constitution of Ecuador. There is a relationship among the State, the market, society and nature, where the market is no longer the only force driving development, but rather acts in interaction with the other factors.

The changes made to the Constitution underwent serious debate and controversy, both in the Constitutional committees and the assembly. The main areas of debate centered on the economic, educational and social security systems, where the opposition advocated for the concept of freedom and not interfering with personal issues.

Another aspect of the debate was the role of the State in addressing indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian and Montubio populations, as well as the degree of autonomy implied by plurinationality. The new Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador took the nation from a pluricultural and multiethnic state to an intercultural and plurinational country, which involves forming a society capable of ending a history of cultural exclusion.

In the chapter entitled, "The State and Territorial Configuration in Ecuador," the author analyzes different social, political and economic dynamics that have resulted in the current territory of Ecuador. This analysis presents the major moments in national history that are key to understanding changes in current regional configurations, as well as the varied weight and importance of the time periods for the region of Ecuador, including relationships and connections between these territories. It also describes the role of local towns and regions in the territorial configuration and in the overall process of consolidating a national State, emphasizing the tensions and disputes between local and centralized powers.

Six fundamental processes are highlighted: banana growth, agrarian reform, the oil boom, import substitution, increased tourism to the Galapagos Islands and neoliberalism.

Chapter three provides a historical description of centralization and decentralization in Ecuador, going back to colonial times and independence.

For example, in the nineteenth century, the process of building a national State was present in disputes among local, regional and centralized powers. This pitted the need to consolidate the national State against the emergence of local powers that claimed taxes, resources and authority to carve out their own destinies. The oscillations between positions favoring a more centralized set-up and a decentralized organization were an obstacle to the national project and linking the development model with the State structure to achieve progress. The author describes how long-term policies were needed, which Ecuador did not have.

In this framework, one of the most debated topics of the National Constitutional Assembly was the territorial organization of the state, whose amendments were proposed in the Constitution of 2008.

As the author describes in her conclusions, "In Ecuador, the 2008 Constitution proposed a future utopia, which currently surpasses the possibilities available."

Overall, this book is rather illuminating. Ana María Larrea describes the break with strong paradigms in the population of Ecuador, where the concept of the "good life" led to efforts to create proposals that diverge from contemporary development theory. As shown throughout the work, economic growth does not always resolve issues of poverty, human rights and nature.

José Luis Maya
Institute of Economic Research—unam

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 192, January-March is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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