Japhy Wilson, Reality of Dreams: Post-Neoliberal Utopias in the Ecuadorian Amazon – Yale University Press, September 2021
An exploration of radical megaprojects in the Ecuadorian Amazon, considering the fate of utopian fantasies under conditions of global capitalism
From 2007 to 2017, the “Citizens’ Revolution” launched an ambitious series of post-neoliberal megaprojects in the remote Amazonian region of Ecuador, including an interoceanic transport corridor, a world-leading biotechnology university, and a planned network of two hundred “Millennium Cities.” The aim was to liberate the nation from its ecologically catastrophic dependence on Amazonian oil reserves, while transforming its jungle region from a wild neoliberal frontier into a brave new world of “twenty-first-century socialism.” This book documents the heroic scale of this endeavor, the surreal extent of its failure, and the paradoxical process through which it ended up reinforcing the economic model that it had been designed to overcome. It explores the phantasmatic and absurd dimensions of the transformation of social reality under conditions of global capitalism, deconstructing the utopian fantasies of the state, and drawing attention to the eruption of insurgent utopias staged by those with nothing left to lose.
“Reality of Dreams is theoretically and empirically rich, deeply researched, closely argued, and very well written. This highly original work dismantles the developmental fantasies of the petro-state, showing how they crash miserably against the reality of petro-capitalism and how possibilities of radical social change emerge spontaneously from their debris.”—Mazen Labban, author of Space, Oil and Capital
“Reality of Dreams hovers in exciting ways over shadows cast by the secret dread animating all theory—that in the not so long run, nothing makes sense. What we have are fantasies rendered in ruins midst the juggernaut of ‘development.’ It is grotesque. It is absurd. It is unbelievable.”—Michael Taussig, author of Mastery of Non-Mastery in the Age of Meltdown
“Reality of Dreams is an epic tale of heroic modernization that takes us into the dark, dystopian heart of the post-neoliberal Citizens’ Revolution and President Correa’s petro-dream world, emerging into a world ever more fit for capitalist plunder.”—Michael J. Watts, Class of 1963 Professor of Geography and Development Studies Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley
“From the Jesuits, to Jonestown, to the (failed) from-scratch urban modernist ventures, Amazonia has not lacked for utopian experiments. Japhy Wilson’s fantastic book explores the Ecuadorian iteration of yet another tropical urban utopia fever dream.”—Susanna B. Hecht, author of Scramble for the Amazon and Fate of the Forest