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Research in Economic Anthropology




The above two quotations embody disparate worldviews with regard to the neoliberal project that has enveloped much of Latin America in the past decade. Globalization intensifies the region's integration into the world economy through neoliberal reforms such as market opening, privatizations, and rationalization of production. These reforms are transforming rural societies, raising important questions concerning policies that selectively favor new strategies for capital investment and production oriented toward market expansion, as they marginalize surplus workers and "inefficient" forms of production. This paper contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the contradictions brought about by globalization and local people's struggles to resist its consequences.

An ample amount of social science research has materialized that focuses on the impact of globalization, neoliberalism, and other hegemonizing forces upon local peoples. Solid consensus has emerged that these transformations in production and marketing place local societies at increasing risk and deny them the most basic rights to social justice (Carton de Grammont 1995, Gates 1993, Gledhill 1995, Otero 1996, Phillips 1998). Clearly, while neoliberalism seeks to resolve problems of international capital accumulation, as an economic model it fails to address the increasing poverty, social disparities, and political repression that inevitably accompany such transformations (Carton de Grammont 1995). Economic triage (Gates 1993), premised on an ideology of efficiency and rationalization of production, constitutes a key strategy utilized to deny credit to less efficient producers and to dismiss large numbers of "excess" workers. This hegemony, exercised through exclusion and marginalization of small-scale producers, poses an important challenge for social science analysis. As Phillips (1998:194) rightly points out, by "providing concrete proof that neoliberalism has a negative impact on people's lives, the power of neoliberalism may be dismantled. But does this strategy, in itself, challenge the neoliberal worldview?" She (1998:196) continues, "Critical social science requires an engagement that recognizes the connections between research and politics and that actively listens to representations of the world that vary from those being offered by this political project called neoliberalism."

In this paper, I use a case study from the community of Puruarán, Michoacán, Mexico, to address significant cultural, social, economic, and political consequences for sugarcane growers as they confront the globalization of local space. In this case, neoliberal directives for productive efficiency and market liberalization undermined social justice, which I take broadly to include rights to employment, basic survival necessities, family and community reproduction, and freedom from violence and repression. Yet, as Barkin et al. (1997) point out, there are two significant forces in dynamic interaction--neoliberalism and resistance to it. Hernández and Nigh (1995) assert that ideologies associated with globalization tend to underrate the power of local cultures. Therefore, analysis proceeds by situating the community of Puruarán--whose sugar mill was closed following privatization--within a global-local nexus (Torres 1997) that privileges both hegemonic forces on the community and the multiple ways that hegemony is contested, both discursively and in practice. Globalization increasingly impinges on local communities, yet it also fosters the reassertion of cultural identity and political movements in defense of social justice.

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This is an author accepted manuscript of the following published work:

Chollett, Donna. 1999. Global Competition and Community: The Struggle for Social Justice. Research in Economic Anthropology, 20:19-47.

The authorized, published version can be found in the print version of Research in Economic Anthropology.


This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact

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