Potemkin Revolution: Utopian Jungle Cities of 21st Century Socialism

Japheth Wilson, Manuel Bayón

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This paper explores the entanglement of ideology and materiality in the production of the spaces of twenty-first century socialism. ‘Millennium Cities’ are currently being constructed for indigenous communities throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon, with revenues derived from petroleum extracted within their territories. As iconic spatial symbols of the ‘Citizens’ Revolution’, the Millennium Cities would appear to embody ‘the original accumulation of twenty-first century socialism’ – a utopian state ideology promising the collective appropriation of natural resources without the dispossession of the peasantry. Drawing on extensive field research, we argue that they are better understood as a simulation of urban modernity that is symptomatic of the predominance of ground rent in South American capitalism, and which conceals the violent repression of an autonomous indigenous project of petroleum-based modernization. The original accumulation of twenty-first century socialism can therefore be interpreted as a ‘fantasy of origins’, which functions to reproduce the primitive accumulation of capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-254
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2017


  • post-neoliberalism; twenty-first century socialism; primitive accumulation; ground rent; utopia; fantastical materialism


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