Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and Their Critics

Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and Their Critics

Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and Their Critics

Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and Their Critics

Synopsis

Corporations are among the most powerful institutions of our time, but they are also responsible for a wide range of harmful social and environmental impacts. Consequently, political movements and nongovernmental organizations increasingly contest the risks that corporations pose to people and nature. Mining Capitalism examines the strategies through which corporations manage their relationships with these critics and adversaries. By focusing on the conflict over the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea, Stuart Kirsch tells the story of a slow-moving environmental disaster and the international network of indigenous peoples, advocacy groups, and lawyers that sought to protect local rivers and rain forests. Along the way, he analyzes how corporations promote their interests by manipulating science and invoking the discourses of sustainability and social responsibility. Based on two decades of anthropological research, this book is comparative in scope, showing readers how similar dynamics operate in other industries around the world.

Excerpt

The corporation is one of the most powerful institutions of our time. Corporations organize much of the world’s labor and capital, shape the material form of the modern world, and are a prime mover of globalization. But corporations are also responsible for a wide range of harmful effects, including the use of technologies with deleterious consequences for human health and the production of environmental hazards that threaten the planet. the situation is exacerbated by neoliberal economic policies that view the market as the most efficient means of solving these problems and assert that effective management of these issues by the corporation can substitute for regulation. These policies have led the state to transfer many of its regulatory responsibilities to corporations and markets. Yet the failure of market-based policies and corporations to address these concerns—or, in many cases, to even acknowledge their existence—reproduces the status quo. This allows corporations to continue externalizing the costs of production onto society and the environment, despite making widely publicized claims about the social benefits of their activities, their commitment to abide by existing laws and regulations, their willingness to cooperate with the state, and their responsibility as corporate citizens. the risks associated with production are normalized and naturalized as the inevitable consequence of modernity rather than contingent relations between states, corporations, and the environment that can be reorganized and improved.

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