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Post-neoliberal labor in Patagonia: informality and citizenship in the green economy

Abstract

This article examines post-neoliberal labor in Argentina by attending ethnographically to seasonal workers in the ecotourism destination of El Chaltén and Los Glaciares National Park. In Argentina, post-neoliberalism is associated with the presidential administrations of Néstor Kirchner (2003–2007) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007–2015), which advanced a center-left political agenda ideologically opposed to the neoliberal reforms of the military dictatorship (1976–1983) and the Menem government (1989–1999). I argue that Kirchnerist post-neoliberalism has facilitated a vision of labor-based citizenship that is embraced but not realized by Patagonian tourism workers, drawing attention to the entrenched conditions of informality that exist within local and national contexts. The article contributes to scholarly debates about post-neoliberalism by highlighting the representational pluralism of Kirchnerismo and the conditions of receptivity under which this political ideology is refracted through local citizenship vernaculars.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Brie (2009), for example, has articulated four different post-neoliberal pathways ranging from totalitarian imperialist capitalism to sympathetic neoconservative capitalism to social democratic capitalism to solidarity societies based on a sustainable mixed economy.

  2. 2.

    Poverty and extreme poverty, respectively, defined as surviving on $4 USD/day and $2.50 USD/day, fell from 2002 crisis highs of 45.5 and 29.2% of the national population to 14.3 and 6.6% by 2010 (Weisbrot et al. 2011:8–10).

  3. 3.

    Féliz (2012:112) places informality as high as 44.7% in the private sector, while 13% of public sector workers have what are called “trash contracts.” Trash contracts refer to employment arrangements in which employers hire employees for a “probationary period” without benefits, which can translate into a permanent state of informal employment (Whitson 2007a:128).

  4. 4.

    The ethnographic subjects cited in this article have been given pseudonyms to protect their identities and ensure confidentiality.

  5. 5.

    “Los Terrenos en El Chaltén,” La Cachaña, 9 September 2011, at http://www.lacachania.com.ar/noticia.php?id_nota=10 (last accessed 4 January 2017).

  6. 6.

    In Argentina, the healthcare system is tripartite. There is private health care for the affluent, a higher quality public health care system for legal workers run by unions, and an underfunded and basic public system (Cavagnero et al. 2010).

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Acknowledgements

The Social Science Research Council, the University of Chicago, and the University of Mississippi generously funded this research project and helped bring this article to fruition. I would like to thank Joseph Masco, John Comaroff, William Mazzarella, Stephan Palmié, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts.

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Correspondence to Marcos Mendoza.

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Mendoza, M. Post-neoliberal labor in Patagonia: informality and citizenship in the green economy. Dialect Anthropol 41, 55–76 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10624-017-9446-9

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Keywords

  • Post-neoliberalism
  • Informal labor
  • Citizenship
  • Ecotourism
  • Argentina