Many developing countries continue to follow export-oriented growth strategies based on primary commodities, in spite of the many limitations of such policies. The persistence of this model is inherently related to the dominance of ‘commodity imaginaries’, a compound of ideas and symbols that influence how a society understands its identity, norms and path to ‘national development’. In Argentina, an emblematic case of commodity dependency, this imaginary has been dominated for the last thirty years by soybean. The soybean 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 normalise soy’s dominance and invisibilise people and places located at the margins of the imaginary. The soybean imaginary renders a deeply political project of economic growth ‘common sense’. An understanding of the power of commodity imaginaries allows us to better identify and comprehend how choices that support unsustainable and unequal development trajectories are made, and the cultural, political, and economic structures that legitimise these choices, as well as their impacts and consequences.
Giraudo, M. E., & Grugel, J. (2022). Imaginaries of Soy and the Costs of Commodity-led Development: Reflections from Argentina. Development and Change, 53(4), 796-826. https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12714