Encounters with the Super-Citizen: Neoliberalism, Environmental Activism, and the American Heritage Rivers Initiative


In this article we argue that while new kinds of political activism are flourishing in local areas, increasing partnership with economic development interests poses serious challenges to the political efficacy of environmental activism. We examine the shifting terrain of local political activism within the context of the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, a new federal program designed to facilitate environmental preservation, economic development, and cultural preservation along U.S. rivers. This article is based on research done along the New River in North Carolina and Virginia with a collection of local groups organized into a regional partnership. That partnership exemplifies emerging forms of local political action under new regimes of state power and hybrid partnerships. We argue that if hybrid forms of environmental activism spread, with their emphasis on neoliberalism and ecological modernization, they will likely pose challenges for grassroots politics and, as has been the case along the New River, blunt the critical edge of the environmental critique.