Accepted Paper:

Spanish High-Speed Rail: from infrastructure to markets and the contradictions of liberalization  


Natalia Buier (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes the historical evolution of the Spanish high-speed rail project, also known as AVE. Converting rail transportation into an asset presents a specific set of contradictions the response to which can only be understood by analyzing competing claims of economic expertise.

Paper long abstract:

Spain is currently the country with the largest HSR network in Europe and the second longest globally, surpassed only by China. With origins in the 1980s, the AVE project has been converted into a symbol of modernity and the solution to the crisis of conventional rail. While the last years have seen criticism of the AVE intensify, the project has so far survived the financial crisis relatively unscathed. Born as the star instrument of the commercial railway programme set in motion in the 1980s, its defense today requires recourse to a different set of legitimation principles that construct it as a political project that justifies non-market behaviors. In this paper I analyze the various forms in which a specific technology, HSR, has been reconstructed as an asset. I discuss the conflict between different modalities of converting this specific infrastructure into an asset and open a discussion about the analytic importance of the histories of failing to build a market in HSR transportation.

Panel T005
Turning Things into Assets