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The Curse of Wealth: Political Ecologies of Latin American Neoliberalism

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Abstract

The article reviews recent scholarship on the changing relationships between nature, society, capital, and the state in neoliberal Latin America. It employs political ecology as a macro-analytic framework to analyze scholarly literature published since 2007 on Latin American socio-ecological processes. The first section examines land and resource conflicts associated with accumulation by dispossession, or the penetration of capital into hitherto un-commodified realms of nature and biological life. Conflicts include popular struggles for land reform, and against new extraction-based oil and mining interests, and the privatization of public utilities. The second section reviews the resurgence and socio-ecological impacts of neoliberal mega-development, including large-scale hydroelectric, infrastructure, and agro-industrial projects. The third section reviews studies related to the extension of market forces and global governance regimes into the environmental and public commons, primarily through the creation of ecological protected areas and biodiversity conservation initiatives. In response to the complex reconfigurations of capitalism, nature, and governance in neoliberal Latin America, the article also highlights the emergence of organized resistance, and experimentation in post-neoliberal and post-development alternatives.

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