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Neoliberalism, Social Exclusion, and Social Movements

Resistance and Dissent in Mexico's Sugar Industry

Donna L. Chollett

Hardback

Neoliberalism, Social Exclusion, and Social Movements critically examines struggles for social justice in an era of neoliberal globalization. Chollett perceptively elucidates the intertwining of debt restructuring, the debacle of privatization, NAFTA-generated distortions in the sugar market, and social and economic exclusion of Mexican sugarcane growers and mill workers. The enclosure of community commons is but one of the devastating impacts of neoliberal policies that generated social movements across Latin America and beyond. Closure of one of Michoacán, Mexico’s five sugar mills following privatization brought unemployment and economic havoc to the region. This region is unique in that it is the only locality where a social movement repossessed the closed sugar refinery and created a cooperative, worker-run workplace. The book offers a historically contextualized, globally situated, and ethnographically grounded analysis of the social movement as sugarcane growers and mill workers challenged the end to their way of life as they knew it. It takes the reader into the very real lives of movement participants, their aspirations, struggles, and accommodations. Chollett skillfully peels back the layers of this social movement as activists sought to remake their own history, but under circumstances that did not, in the end, ensure social justice. The author demonstrates empathy for collective struggles confronting the ravages of neoliberal globalization, yet explodes the myth that intuitively exalts social movements as morally noble forces for democratization and solidarity. She offers a critical perspective on the internal factions and lack of democratization of a social movement gone awry and presents a sorely-needed critique of social movement theory. While focusing on a particular social movement, this book carries wide applicability for all social movements concerned with social justice in an era of enduring neoliberalism. It is essential reading for students, academics, activists, and policy-makers concerned with global inequalities.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 252Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/2
978-0-7391-8225-3 • Hardback • October 2013 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
978-0-7391-8226-0 • eBook • October 2013 • $84.99 • (£54.95)
Donna L. Chollett, PhD, is a professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota-Morris and coordinator of Latin American Area Studies. She specializes in rural Mexico with almost three decades of research on Mexican sugarcane growers and the sugar sector. Her research focuses on the contentious relationships between neoliberal policies, privatization of sugar mills, market opening under NAFTA, and their impact on cane growers in western Mexico. In the wake of sugar mill closures, she expanded this research to include employment of women by transnational corporations that supplanted sugar cane with export fruit production and turned her attention to social movements that organized to create alternatives to the neoliberal agenda. She remains a strong advocate of social justice and supports efforts aimed at sustainable agriculture in the United States and abroad.
List of Illustrations and Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1.Theorizing “Global-Local” Relations
2.Constructing the Cultural-Historical Matrix of Cane Production
3. The Cultural Construction of Cane Production in Puruarán
4.The Neoliberal Turn & Privatization of Mexico’s Sugar Industry
5.NAFTA and the Neo-Globalization of Sugar
6.Reclaiming Power and Forging Alternatives
7. The Legal Interlude and Regeneration of the Social Movement
8.The Precarious Fate of Ingenio Puruarán
9.Resistance under Circumstances Not of Their Own Choosing
10.“Like an Ox Yoke:” The Myth of Intrinsically Virtuous Social Movements
Notes
Acronyms and Spanish Terms
References
Index
About the Author
Donna Chollett’s analysis of the protracted but ultimately unsuccessful local struggles to continue milling cane at the Puruarán sugar mill makes a contribution of broad comparative and theoretical significance to understanding how the intersections of contemporary local, national, and global conditions, along with legacies of history, shape social movement dynamics as people try to construct their own alternatives to the future neoliberal capitalism offers them. Her rich ethnography, based on 15 years of research, unflinchingly explores contradictions at every level, but also humanizes its subjects and avoids blaming the victims of the unequal power relationships that she so insightfully explores.
John Gledhill, The University of Manchester


Donna Chollett’s Neoliberalism, Social Exclusion, and Social Movements offers a vigorous and meticulous analysis of the complexities of local political struggles as they are both shaped and constrained by disjunctures in global regimes of accumulation and continuities in the nature and uneven dispersal of political power. What emerges is an attentive, historically informed understanding of how marginalized people contest their material, cultural, and political dispossessions. This book powerfully illustrates how the messiness of everyday political processes is not something which social movements virtuously transcend, but is integral to their struggles. This book is an invaluable addition to the literature on neoliberalization and rural politics in Mexico; Chollett offers a compelling example of why sustained and committed ethnographic work matters.
Kathy Powell, National University of Ireland Galway


Donna Chollett’s admirable history of the Mexican sugar cane industry documents the ruinous impact of state-sponsored economic policies on entire rural communities. Neoliberalism, Social Exclusion, and Social Movements chronicles in great detail the struggles of the inhabitants of one sugar cane town, Puruarán, to keep its mill working. In part due to internal conflicts and contradictions, the movement to operate the mill ultimately failed. However, the movement’s decade-long existence offers incisive testimony to the desires of peasants and workers to preserve a place for themselves in the face of neoliberal policies that define them as expendable.
Arthur Leigh Binford, College of Staten Island and Graduate School, City University of New York


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