Kregg Hetherington, “The Government of Beans: Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops” (Duke UP, 2020)

By the time Bolivian President Evo Morales was deposed in December 2019, it had become increasingly clear that Latin America’s Pink Tide – the wave of left-leaning, anti-poverty governments which hold of the region in the mid-2000s – was fast receding.

Many have attempted to explain the rise and fall of that extraordinary historical movement, but few have done it with the historical depth, ethnographic subtlety, and theoretical capaciousness of Concordia University-based anthropologist Kregg Hetherington, whose new book, The Government of Beans: Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops (Duke University Press, 2020) dives not only into the fate of Paraguay’s Pink Tide regime but also the global soy industry, agricultural politics, economic inequality, expert knowledge, and the impossibility of regulatory paths out of economic and ecological crises.

Written in clear, engaging prose, this book weaves fresh insights on bureaucracy and biopolitics into stories about how soy governs and is governed in rural Paraguay. This book will be an essential read for all interested in Latin America, state power, neoliberal agriculture, anthropology in the Anthropocene, and the pressing question of how conflicts over mundane, everyday forms of violence undergird eventful horrors such as massacres, regime changes, and the unmaking of people’s power. 

Aparna Gopalan is a Ph.D. Candidate in Social Anthropology at Harvard University studying the reproduction of inequality through development projects in rural western India. 

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