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Making Aluminum in the Rainforest: The Social Impact of Globalization in the Brazilian Amazon
The Journal of Developing Areas (1999)
  • Paul Ciccantell

A great deal of recent attention in the social science literature has focused on the process of globalization, the increasing economic and social integration of all regions of the world. The development of the capitalist world economy over the last five hundred years has been tied to and dependent upon the incorporation of socially and geographically remote regions and ecosystems into the world economy.1 A major driving force behind this process of incorporation has been increasing demand for raw materials to fuel industrialization and feed growing populations in the core nations.2 This process of raw materials-based incorporation is shaped by the natural characteristics of particular raw materials,3 the strategies of transnational corporations to gain access to raw materials,4 and the strategies of core, semiperipheral and peripheral states to capture benefits and avoid the costs of these development strategies.5

This paper applies the theoretical model of the new historical materialism6 to the analysis of data from four raw materials-based communities in the Brazilian Amazon. New historical materialism argues that the characteristics of particular raw materials and the social processes of extraction, processing and consumption shape corporate strategies, state development strategies, and the local, national and international socioeconomic and environmental consequences of these strategies. A case study of Japan7 examined the effects of these material processes and strategies on an ascendant core economy. This paper shifts the focus to the other side of the equation: What does incorporation into the world economy based on raw materials mean for extractive regions? In particular, what are the socioeconomic impacts of incorporation based on aluminum raw materials in the current phase of globalization for one extractive periphery, the Brazilian Amazon? New historical materialism brings together the research questions and methods of the sociology of development, environmental sociology, and social impact assessment into a coherent analytic framework linking global and local processes. The four case study communities in the aluminum and linked hydroelectric industries analyzed here are critical cases of the effects of these linked global and local processes.

Publication Date
Citation Information
Paul Ciccantell. "Making Aluminum in the Rainforest: The Social Impact of Globalization in the Brazilian Amazon" The Journal of Developing Areas Vol. 33 Iss. 2 (1999)
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