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Does Commons Grabbing Lead to Resilience Grabbing? The Anti-Politics Machine of Neo-Liberal Agrarian Development and Local Responses

This Special Issue contributes to the debate that land grabbing should be discussed as commons grabbing. But it also goes a step further. It poses this question: does commons grabbing also removes local people’s capacity for resilience in the Global South, especially in Africa and if so how does that process unfold? The contributions share a focus on how the development of state institutions (formal laws and regulations for agrarian development and compensation) and voluntary corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives by investors have enabled the grabbing process of not just removing land but land and land-related common-pool resources formally previously governed by local common property institutions. The papers look at how state institutions (specifically state property of resources and their subsequent privatization) and CSR programs are used for development strategies by state actors and companies to legitimate their investments (Anseeuw et al 2012 [1], Lavers 2012 [2], Schoeneveld and Zoomers 2015 [3]).

Furthermore, the contributions in this Special Issue analyze the embedding of these strategies into neoliberal ideology of economic development (Escobar 1995 [4], Haller 2013 [5]). This ideology defines development as an economic progress of individual efforts adapted to the market to eradicate poverty and promote individual development. Such a view negates processes of power asymmetries and calls for remedies that are often externally defined. In addition, these remedies are often based on notions of private property and economic achievements with low level but nevertheless existing state interference (see Fletcher 2010 [6]). Therefore, state actors still profit from these policies, often without involving local actors and groups apart from local elites. State actors and investors also promote ideologies of modernity based on discourses of market-oriented economic development including green development based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (see Haller et al 2018 [7], Haller et al 2019 [8]).

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