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Neoliberalism and Commodity Production in Mexico

Neoliberalism and Commodity Production in Mexico

Thomas Weaver
James B. Greenberg
William L. Alexander
Anne Browning-Aiken
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Neoliberalism and Commodity Production in Mexico
    Book Description:

    Neoliberalism and Commodity Production in Mexico details the impact of neoliberal practice on the production and exchange of basic resources in working-class communities in Mexico. Using anthropological investigations and a market-driven approach, contributors explain how uneven policies have undermined constitutional protections and working-class interests since the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Detailed ethnographic fieldwork shows how foreign investment, privatization, deregulation, and elimination of welfare benefits have devastated national industries and natural resources and threatened agriculture, driving the campesinos and working class deeper into poverty. Focusing on specific commodity chains and the changes to production and marketing under neoliberalism, the contributors highlight the detrimental impacts of policies by telling the stories of those most affected by these changes. They detail the complex interplay of local and global forces, from the politically mediated systems of demand found at the local level to the increasingly powerful municipal and state governments and the global trade and banking institutions. Sharing a common theoretical perspective and method throughout the chapters, Neoliberalism and Commodity Production in Mexico is a multi-sited ethnography that makes a significant contribution to studies of neoliberal ideology in practice.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-172-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    JBG, TW, ABA and WLA
  4. ONE The Neoliberal Transformation of Mexico
    (pp. 1-32)
    James B. Greenberg, Thomas Weaver, Anne Browning-Aiken and William L. Alexander

    Neoliberalism, as a form of market fundamentalism, is both seductive and one of those dangerous economic ideologies that seems impervious to the lessons of history (Carrier and Miller 1998). On its seductive side, neoliberalism embraces many of the core values that are at the heart of US society: freedom, democracy, individualism, and entrepreneurship. It is how these goals are pursued that is the stuff of politics, with great differences between liberal and conservative visions of both markets and the role of the state. Despite its name, neoliberalism is a right-wing economic philosophy that emphasizes laissez-faire free markets, free trade, and...

  5. TWO Theorizing Neoliberalism
    (pp. 33-50)
    James B. Greenberg, Thomas Weaver, Anne Browning-Aiken and William L. Alexander

    Neoliberalism is hardly new. Its roots reach back to the Enlightenment. If the philosophers of the Enlightenment can be seen to have had a unifying project, it was to imagine alternatives to feudal society and its ideas of divine order. Rejecting old arguments for morality based on religion, they sought to establish the foundations for morality based on reason or nature that located the basis for government and society within self-preservation and social contract. Standing in opposition to feudal obligations, thinkers such as Locke, Hume, Montesquieu, Constant, and Rousseau argued for natural rights, personal freedom, and liberty. Because feudal ruling...

  6. THREE Neoliberalism and the Transnational Activity of the State: Offshore Control in the US-Mexico Mango and Persian Lime Industry
    (pp. 51-74)
    Robert R. Alvarez

    This chapter focuses on a relatively ignored yet growing dimension of neoliberal effects in the global marketing of fruits and vegetables. It illustrates how, in the case of tropical export crops, specific US infrastructures penetrate offshore cultures of production and distribution at national, regional, and local levels. Of crucial importance is that penetration and influence cause dramatic social-cultural change. Much of the literature on globalization and neoliberalism—which focuses on the inequities and economic dimensions of free trade, especially the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—has ignored the nation-state’s offshore capacity as participant and organizer at regional, national, and...

  7. FOUR Tracing the Trail of Table Grapes: The Effects of Neoliberal Policies in Sonora, Mexico
    (pp. 75-98)
    Rebecca H. Carter and William L. Alexander

    In many ways, the Sonoran table grape industry could be considered a textbook case of how neoliberal policies are supposed to work. The industry is thriving, generating hundreds of millions of dollars per year through the export of more than 20 million boxes of grapes annually to the United States, Canada, and Europe. Sonoran table grapes account for about two-thirds of the grapes sold in US supermarkets in May and June. Table grape growers have utilized Mexico’s comparative advantage of cheaper labor and employ approximately 13,000 locals who work year-round in the industry and 75,000 seasonal workers who come from...

  8. FIVE Maize and Indigenous Communities of Oaxaca: Two Victims of Neoliberalism
    (pp. 99-114)
    Alvaro González Ríos

    Since the early 1980s we have witnessed a mass exodus of both rural and indigenous populations from the Mexican countryside to urban centers in Mexico and to the United States. By 2006, remittances from abroad exceeded $23.054 million, according to the Banco Nacional de Mexico—second in foreign currency earnings only to oil revenues. Paradoxically, the depopulation and impoverishment of rural Mexico have occurred in a context of government policy that has financed and implemented important programs aimed at modernizing the country’s agricultural sector to make it efficient and competitive in global markets. Although social programs are supposed to help...

  9. SIX Disjuncture between Economic Policy and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: Water Case Studies in Sonora, Mexico
    (pp. 115-140)
    Anne Browning-Aiken

    For the border states of northern Mexico, water has increasingly become a strategic value as economic development and migration contribute to exponential growth (Lorey 1999). A long history of over-pumping the aquifers, associated with rapid population growth, has led to widespread water scarcity that has intensified in recent years as the result of a prolonged drought. Expansion of the mining industry and privatization of municipal water systems have complicated the management and distribution of water in northern Mexico, while intensification of agriculture—associated with the increased penetration of global capitalism and transnational corporations into northern Mexico—has further depleted water...

  10. SEVEN Privately Unsustainable: Ecological Resiliency and Watershed Resources in an Arid-Land Ejido
    (pp. 141-164)
    Robert M. Emanuel

    Along with livelihood, health, and prosperity, water is a singular focus for the people of San Lázaro, Sonora. When San Juan’s Day passes every June 25, San Lazareño rancher-farmers look heavenward and ask for rain to re-green the dry grasslands of their home. When the rains do not come, the ranchers complain bitterly—it is a matter of life and death for their cattle and hence of hunger or surplus for their families. On one particularly dry spring day, nearly a month before San Juan’s Day, a group of cattle wandered around the town plaza while I was talking to...

  11. EIGHT Policies of Conservation and Sustainable Development: Fishing Communities in the Gulf of California, Mexico
    (pp. 165-186)
    Marcela Vásquez-León

    Since the late 1990s, Mexico’s marine fisheries and coastal resources, like much of Mexico’s rural sector, have been undergoing deep structural transformations as the country insists on rigorously implementing the neoliberal model. As in much of Latin America, neoliberal reforms have involved macroeconomic, agrarian, and environmental policies. These policies include the privatization of key economic sectors and state-owned industries, the liberalization of markets and establishment of international free trade agreements, major changes to banking and credit systems, the elimination of subsidies, and decentralization of state control. Even though the declared objectives of the neoliberal model are to sustain economic growth,...

  12. NINE Neoliberalism and the Social Relations of Forestry Production in Chihuahua
    (pp. 187-208)
    Thomas Weaver

    Poor farmers and pastoralists differ from environmentalists, foresters, and corporations in their views and expectations regarding the goals of timber production. Poor farmers view attempts to protect the forest as inimical to providing food for their families. Environmentalists rarely consider the welfare of long-term residents of these lands and at times appear to support corporate interests. The corporate view holds that forest products are commodities that should be distributed for profit to national and international markets. The result is that although Mexico possesses one of the largest forest reserves in the world, overexploitation makes it a net importer of wood...

  13. TEN The Impact of World Bank Policies on Indigenous Communities
    (pp. 209-224)
    Salomón Nahmad

    The neoliberal macroeconomic, agrarian, and environmental reforms implemented in Mexico since 1982 were designed to sustain economic growth, increase the population’s standard of living, and fight poverty. The reforms acknowledged that the natural resources were being exploited and that those extracting these resources should assume the obligation of protecting and preserving the environment from a sustainability perspective. Nevertheless, under neoliberal reforms, economic development actually diminished, particularly within the peasant and indigenous sectors. As a result of the emphasis on urban-industrial development, natural resources were poorly regulated and are still intensively exploited, with adverse impacts not only on the environment but...

  14. ELEVEN The Impact of Neoliberal Policies on Rural Producers in Oaxaca, Mexico
    (pp. 225-240)
    James B. Greenberg

    My wife comes from Juquila, a coffee-producing region of Oaxaca, so I hear little things from the family, like coffee prices were so bad this year that it didn’t even pay to harvest the beans or that two of the people who died in the World Trade Center came from Panixtlahuaca, a Chatino village of small coffee growers. When I first did fieldwork among the Chatino, only a handful of them lived outside the district, let alone in America. Now my wife tells me that the line in front of the telegraph office of people picking up remittance checks is...

  15. TWELVE Neoliberal Capital and the Mobility Approach in Anthropology
    (pp. 241-268)
    James B. Greenberg and Josiah McC. Heyman

    Our colleagues in this volume provide a rich history of neoliberal policies in Mexico and compelling case studies of the transformations they have induced. We draw on these rich materials to lay out an argument about how anthropologists might study the relationships between places within the world system, highlighting the ceaseless movement of people, commodities, and biophysical components among them—orchestrated by peculiarly rootless forms of capital. This puts neoliberalism in its place as just the latest phase of capitalist orchestration of space and power, reworking previous formations. We emphasize mobility as constitutive of places, in both stabilizing as well...

  16. THIRTEEN Coffee, Neoliberalism, and Social Policy in Oaxaca
    (pp. 269-292)
    Paola Ma. Sesia

    In this chapter I provide an account of the ways recent neoliberal policies affected small indigenous coffee-producing localities in Oaxaca, Mexico, in the 1990s and early 2000 and examine how locals made sense of these policies and programs in different ways. First, I analyze the magnitude of the most recent worldwide coffee crisis, a product of twenty years of economic neoliberalism that negatively affected the livelihoods of millions of poor coffee-producing families around the world, including those in rural Oaxaca. I then present an overview of neoliberal policies toward the rural and indigenous poor in contemporary Mexico, which revolve around...

  17. FOURTEEN Up the Mode in the Period of Post-Neoliberalism
    (pp. 293-314)
    Thomas Weaver

    Charles Dickens compares Paris and London at the time of the French Revolution with the 1850s when he was writing.¹ This comparison rings true today with analogies to the haves and have-nots of globalization. It is the best of times for a select few and the worst of times for the many. This chapter is about Post-Neoliberalism and the adjustments made by those at the bottom of the economic scale. I use the concept of “up the mode” to explain the process, which addresses the capitalist mode. The period of up the mode occurred during counter-neoliberal attempts to raise the...

  18. FIFTEEN Conclusion: Structural Adjustment, Structural Violence
    (pp. 315-342)
    James B. Greenberg, Thomas Weaver, Anne Browning-Aiken and William L. Alexander

    An old Vaudeville one-liner runs “the operation was a success but the patient died.” That sentiment would seem to apply to neoliberalism generally and certainly in Mexico. The history of neoliberalism in Mexico has been one of repeated application of “neoliberal medicine” as a cure for the crises du jour, followed by shock and upheavals that neoliberals call structural adjustment but which might more aptly be termed structural violence—“the violence of poverty, hunger, social exclusion, and humiliation” (Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois 2004:1) that results from the way risk is structured by political and economic forces (Farmer 2002, 2004). Even by...

  19. List of Contributors
    (pp. 343-348)
  20. Index
    (pp. 349-354)