In the Chasm between Oil and Ag

Immigrant Farmworkers on the Frontlines of Climate Justice in Kern County, California, USA
17 March 2018

The stretch from Bakersfield to Arvin, California in Kern County, California reveals a great deal about the role of “Big Ag” and “Big Oil” in the wave of authoritarian populism that brought Trump to political power in 2016.

This is not a tale about how global and national politics scale down to the local arena, but rather one about how national and multinational corporations are integrated in and control local politics -- drawing from almost two centuries of history and emboldened by the institutional and media clout gained in recent decades due to mergers, corporate deregulation and increasing worker precarity. As Kern County reveals, “the local” is key to how major players in the current global economy renovate the racial and spatial logic of neoliberal accumulation strategies and reproduce their broader dominance. To the extent that global consumption is fueled by agribusiness and the oil-and-gas industry, it also stands on a bedrock of reactionary and parochial politics, a bedrock that has formed, not coincidentally, in places where oil extraction and industrial food production intersect.


This paper was presented at the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) 2018 Conference: "Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World"