Image Database Export Citations


Production in the Shadow of the Naked Mountain: Historicizing the Failures of Common Property Enterprises in the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST)

Show full item record

Type: Conference Paper
Author: Johnson, Leigh
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2037
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Social Organization
Region: South America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
land tenure and use
Amazon River region
Abstract: "This study proposes that particular nucleated settlement strategies adopted by the Brazilian Rural Landless Worker's Movement, the MST, in the eastern Amazon, can be understood as the evolution of common property in response to the exclusionary land tenure system and capitalist structure of the Brazilian countryside. Although these collective management and production arrangements generally result in greater economic efficiency, land retention, and environmental preservation, rarely do any of these enterprises achieve stability over more than one to two years. The paper contests the presupposition that market opportunities necessarily bring stability, while simultaneously arguing that the failure of collective projects cannot be explained simply in microeconomic terms of utility or transaction costs. Household-level surveys indicate that, faced with the choice between individual and communal production, the latter is consistently more economically advantageous. The crumbling of common property systems has little to do with microeconomic forces; rather, it is influenced by a culture that values individual self-determination and products with immediate exchange values. The development of these specific cultural values can be understood through an analysis of the majority of participants previous labor experience in Brazil's famous Serra Pelada ('Naked Mountain') gold mine and the particular enduring social relations that this mining phenomenon produced. These circumstances are found to influence directly the ability of collectives to come to a consensus about the direction and schedule of production, while they also encourage a tendency towards individualized ranching-based activities and away from agricultural production. Thus it is argued that larger international market forces driving development projects and mineral extraction in the Brazilian Amazon have fundamentally altered the social fabric of the region, and ultimately had a destabilizing effect on the success of common property institutions and community-based enterprises within the landless movement."

Files in this item

Files Size Format View
Johnson_Production_040527_Paper296.pdf 212.9Kb PDF View/Open

This item appears in the following document type(s)

Show full item record