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Neoliberalism and Commodity Production in Mexico

Edited by Thomas Weaver, James B. Greenberg, William L. Alexander, and Anne Browning-Aiken

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-xi

There are natural disasters, and then there is neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is an economic philosophy that holds that free markets provide the most efficient solution to economic and social problems and that governments should not interfere . . .

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1. The Neoliberal Transformation of Mexico

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pp. 1-31

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, . . .

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2. Theorizing Neoliberalism

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pp. 33-50

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 . . .

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3. Neoliberalism and the Transnational Activity of the State: Offshore Control in the US-Mexico Mango and Persian Lime Industry

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pp. 51-74

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. . . .

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4. Tracing the Trail of Table Grapes: The Effects of Neoliberal Policies in Sonora, Mexico

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pp. 75-98

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, . . .

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5. Maize and Indigenous Communities of Oaxaca: Two Victims of Neoliberalism

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pp. 99-114

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, . . .

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6. Disjuncture between Economic Policy and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: Water Case Studies in Sonora, Mexico

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pp. 115-140

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 . . .

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7. Privately Unsustainable: Ecological Resiliency and Watershed Resources in an Arid-Land Ejido

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pp. 141-164

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 . . .

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8. Policies of Conservation and Sustainable Development: Fishing Communities in the Gulf of California, Mexico

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pp. 165-185

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 . . .

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9. Neoliberalism and the Social Relations of Forestry Production in Chihuahua

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pp. 187-207

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 . . .

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10. The Impact of World Bank Policies on Indigenous Communities

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pp. 209-224

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 . . .

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11. The Impact of Neoliberal Policies on Rural Producers in Oaxaca, Mexico

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pp. 225-239

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 . . .

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12. Neoliberal Capital and the Mobility Approach in Anthropology

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pp. 241-268

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 . . .

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13. Coffee, Neoliberalism, and Social Policy in Oaxaca

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pp. 269-292

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 . . .

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14. Up the Mode in the Period of Post-Neoliberalism

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pp. 293-314

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 . . .

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15. Conclusion

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pp. 315-341

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 . . .


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pp. 343-347


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pp. 349-354

E-ISBN-13: 9781607321729
E-ISBN-10: 1607321726
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607321712
Print-ISBN-10: 1607321718

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 5 maps, 17 tables
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mexico -- Economic policy -- 21st century.
  • Neoliberalism -- Mexico.
  • Commodity exchanges -- Mexico.
  • Mexico -- Foreign economic relations.
  • Mexico -- Social conditions -- 21st century.
  • Working class -- Social conditions -- History.
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