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Changing Social Relations of Production in Urabà

Social Forces and the Colombian Form of State

Par Olivier Plamondon


The aim of this essay is to analyse the changes in the conditions of existence of the peasantry in Colombia’s Urabá region since the 1990s. To theorize those changes, an analysis of production relations is made using Robert W. Cox’s historical materialist approach. This approach demonstrates that, to understand the changes in the region, a broad perspective that looks at the levels production, the state, and world order, is needed. The first section describes the evolution of social relations in the region in the 1990s, and it shows how a reactionary alliance of social forces caused massive displacements in the countryside. The second section analyses the social forces and the organisation of production in Colombia. What is found is that paramilitaries, agrarian elites, and narcotraffickers are taking part in a specific social structure of accumulation that not only caused the shift to the export of non-traditional crops, but also has provoked greater land concentration and the forced displacement of peasants. The third section looks at the specific form of the Colombian state. This form is rooted in its history of economic liberalism and political authoritarianism, and it has recently seen the establishment of a hegemony based on the balance of agrarian elites and other economic groups’ interests.

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