The ‘New’ Extractivism: Winning-over Civil Society?

Extractivist corporates, private and state owned, have always had to contend with civil society. Traditionally they have sought to manage workers, land holders and affected communities through various forms of compensation and remediation. A veto on operations is generally denied and relations can break down, leading to repression and in some instances nationalisation by state authorities. In recent decades this ‘social licence’ for extractivism has been redefined. Royalty and partnership arrangements, with employment and regional development guarantees have proliferated. Extractivism has become more distanced from affected populations, with migrated workers and robotised mining; operations are up-scaled with mega-mines and industrial-scale forest clearance; ownership is concentrated in fewer players. At the same time, vulnerability to investor concerns is growing and corporates have become increasingly sensitive to challengers and have self-consciously sought to capture would-be civil society critics.

Extractivist corporates promote their credentials to investors and governments, as well as to the local populace, and actively recompose civil society, as a set of ‘stakeholder’ interests in the extractivist project. Social justice agendas are recruited for workers, Indigenous peoples and for women, as are sustainability concerns for ‘green’ futures. Codes of conduct, consultative regimes, transparency commitments and monitoring arrangements are marshalled to demonstrate project legitimacy. National state promotion of extractivist development, with ‘buy-in’ from local state authorities, by Indigenous and other landowner interests, by worker representatives and by environmentalists and conservationists, is common. This 'new extractivism' is sometimes linked to national social justice and welfare programs, led from the Left. Civil societies are subjected to increasingly sophisticated strategies that seek to define future horizons for society: in this ideologically hegemonic context, objectors are framed as recalcitrants, marginalised ideologically well before effective challenges can be mounted. 

This Special Issue of Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal investigates this phenomenon of ‘new’ extractivism, focusing on its civil society dimensions. How is civil society re-patterned by extractivism? What social technologies are being developed by extractivist corporates to enable civil society participation in their projects? What tensions or contradictions emerge in this nexus? How may these tensions, understood dialectically, generate new constituencies in civil society, lead to failed extractivist projects, and open-up the potential for wider post-extractivist futures?

Abstracts of up to 500 words are due on 14 May 2022 with decisions on abstracts by 28 May; full papers are due 22 July, with reviews completed by 30 September 2022. Papers to be published in vol. 15, no.1, March 2023.

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