This paper analyses the dynamics of the relationship between the state and foreign firms in the context of resource nationalism, focusing specifically on lithium industrialisation policy in Bolivia. The paper examines three particular developments in the context of the country’s lithium industrialisation strategy: the pursuit of a radical resource nationalism by the state; the subsequent transition towards a moderate nationalistic approach, more open to collaboration with foreign firms; and the repeal of a joint venture created with a German firm to produce lithium compounds. The analysis underscores the importance of reflecting critically on political processes at the sub-national level, and drawing on this knowledge to inform and guide resource policy. It is concluded from this case study of lithium policy in Bolivia that the evolution of resource nationalism should not only be examined by taking into account financial and technological factors alone. Rather, a multi-scalar frame of analysis which considers the social relations in local territories is needed to appreciate fully the impact of resource nationalism.
The Extractive Industries and Society