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Neoliberal restructuring at work in the urban South: The production and re-production of scarcity and vulnerability in the Argentine fisheries sector
Following the adoption of the sweeping neoliberal reforms adopted in the last quarter of the 20th century, within a few years the Argentine fisheries sector shifted from a relatively stable accumulation process – organised around a Fordist structure of production, domestic capital, waged labour and an ‘under-exploited’ resource base – to a situation of over-fishing, internationalisation of capital and flexible production based on the precarisation of the labour force. While this and similar processes elsewhere have been examined from either an ecological or socio-economic perspective, scholarly studies exploring the socio-environmental articulation and impact of regulation systems emerging from the neoliberal restructuring of production in the urban global south are still rare. Articulating the perspectives of political ecology and regulation theory, this project examines: (a) the driving logic and contradictions of industrial production unfolding in the shift from a Fordist regime to a regime of flexible accumulation in an urban peripheral economy in the global context; and (b) the way in which such shift reshaped the ability of the state, firms and citizen workers to deal with increased scarcity, vulnerability and conflictivity. The central hypothesis of this study is that neoliberal restructuring operates through a dispositif of socio-environmental regulation based on an exclusionary system of social re-production, labour exploitation and nature expropriation, a dispositif that normalises capitalist accumulation through the production and re-production of differential sustainability. However, such dispositif is not static but subjected to a socio-spatial dialectical process that might have the capacity to subvert the way in which nature and labour are disciplined under the hegemonic neoliberal rationality. By focusing on the Argentinean fisheries sector in Mar del Plata city (historically, the ‘national’ epicentre of the activity), the thesis seeks to understand how urban-based struggles confront a regulation crisis at multiple scales (e.g. from the workplace to the sea).
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