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Massaging the Misery: Recent Approaches to Fisheries Governance and the Betrayal of Small-Scale Fisheries

Davis, Anthony; Ruddle, Kenneth



Human Organization



Common assertions about the benefits for small-scale fisheries under co-management and human rights approaches become untenable in the context of neoliberalism, because they facilitate the penetration into communities of rationalities and operational methods that betray resource harvesters by undermining family life and cultural systems and destroying the local social organization of production. Based on neoclassical economics, neoliberalism does not recognize cultural, historical, and social characteristics and so cannot accommodate power relationships, social class inequalities and exclusion, social class-based exploitation, vested interests, and wealth appropriation that all must be overcome to deal effectively with inequity, poverty, and powerlessness. These weaknesses are ignored in the small-scale fisheries governance literature, which is characterized by a naïve faith in the magnanimity of the state to perform in a morally and socially positive manner. But the state is no benevolent patron of the public interest and democratic representation, although these are among the predominant underlying yet unstated assumptions in the recent approaches. Rather, based on property ownership and the "individualization" of rights and decision making, it facilitates empowered social classes to further increase wealth and capital accumulation. Although portrayed as benefits of the recent management approaches, democracy, popular participation, institution building, partnership, and local knowledge are sought by the state to legitimize the imposition of market discipline, not for their intrinsic value. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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