Neoliberal Transformation, the State and the Environment: Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
CLM.B.06 (Clement House)
Zuhre Aksoy, Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey
Zuhre Aksoy

Bogazici University, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Istanbul


Neoliberal Transformation, the State and the Environment: Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity

A significant challenge for environmental protection in developing countries is neoliberal restructuring of the economy with crucial implications upon the environment. In the context of neoliberal restructuring, even though there are constraints on the state to intervene in the economy (Onis, 2009: 411), the debate on the “competition state” has centered on the changing nature of the state in the face of globalization, mainly emphasizing that, in the words of Cerny, rather than a reduction in state intervention, there is a shift from ‘decommodifying bureaucracies to marketizing ones’ (Cerny, 2000: 304).

Along with climate change, loss of biological diversity is one of the most urgent global environmental issues of our time. This paper will explore the question of how the shift in the role of the state is likely to affect local rural communities who are the major stewards of biodiversity and who rely on this diversity to sustain their livelihoods (i.e. small farmers who conserve genetic resources)? A related question is: how will this process of changing role of the state affect the distribution of inequalities between local rural communities on the one hand and large farmers and local and transnational agri-business companies on the other hand?

The paper will search for an answer to this question in the context of Turkey, one of the important centers of biological diversity, including agricultural biodiversity (agrobiodiversity). Turkey has been undergoing a neoliberal reform process in the agriculture sector which gained speed since 2000s. At the same time, more recently, there are legal-institutional changes taking place in the regulation of the environment. One of the areas where neoliberal reform process is most acutely viewed is protection of natural resources, where the governance of protected areas has dramatically changed in favor of an arguably more economically efficient use of resources. The paper will argue that the structural changes with neoliberal transformations as reflected in the changing role of the state will exacerbate existing inequalities between major stewards of biodiversity, mainly local communities who conserve genetic resources through their traditional agricultural practices, and groups that benefit from neoliberal reform process, such as agri-business companies.


Cerny, P. (2000), “Political Globalization and the Competition State,” in Political Economy and the Changing Global Order, edited by Stubbs and Underhill (Oxford University Press).

Onis, Z. (2009), “Beyond the 2001 Financial Crisis: The Political Economy of the new phase of neoliberal restructuring in Turkey”, Review of International Political Economy, 16, 3, pp. 409-432.