Pastoralism on the offense, not just defended

–Pastoralists and their herds need to be defended against state depredations, private capture and encroachment, and livestock tarring by climate activists. I can also see the need for those defenders who believe “structural problems require structural solutions,” even when leaving “the low mean cunning” (their term, not mine) to others.

What I don’t understand is the comparative absence of discussion, with notable exceptions, of pastoralisms that are in need of no defense, given the double standards operating in the relevant literatures.

–Allow me a few examples:

  • Indigenous populations and their land rights are now taken by the Left as an essential part of democratic struggles (and not just in the Americas). But where are pastoralists holding livestock and claiming their land rights in the literature on this indigeneity?
  • We hear about the need to move infrastructure change away from powerful actors towards more inclusive low-carbon futures. But where is the focus in that literature on pastoralists already practicing such futures? We hear about the methane contributions of livestock to global warming, but what about the reverse climate risks associated with curtailing pastoralism and in doing so its pro-biodiversity advantages?
  • We know dryland pastoralists have members sending back remittances from their urban areas of residence. But when was the last time you heard researchers ask of them, “Do you vote or not?”
    • Yet that question along with those related to party affiliation are asked all the time in progressive movements like the “new municipalism” (think struggles over housing in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, and Vienna).
    • Jihadists and inter-ethnic conflict in the Sahel have been more studied, I suspect, than these migrant struggles over better housing and care in the cities from which essential remittances are sent. Indeed, when was the last time you read something that started with the political lives of pastoralist households?
  • The literature on varieties of capitalism pretty well demonstrates capitalism is better understood as “an assemblage of actors (both state and market), policies and people” (in contrast to a directed project of global reproduction and accumulation), How then could pastoralisms not be intertwined with capitalisms?
    • Pastoralisms have been and remain assemblages of actors (state and market), policies and people, a commercial intertwining that existed well before the advent of always-late capitalism and the more recent late-imperialism?
    • In fact, I’d bet there are cases where this intertwined rope called “an economy” is better understood as more pastoralist than capitalist.
  • And, just to make sure we are on the same page, that “capitalist” is very misleading when it obscures understanding the signal significance of the pastoralist part of said economy. Rather “the foundational economy” (FE) is the better term, not “capitalism” or “varieties of capitalism.”
    • “The FE comprises two parts,” according to researchers writing on cases in Sweden. “Material FE connects households to daily essentials and encompasses utilities (electricity, gas and water), transport and telecommunication infrastructure, food production and distribution, as well as private banking services. Providential FE includes a subset of activities providing welfare services (education, health and care) as well as systems of income maintenance.”
    • In the literature on foundational economies, what have been called the lifeline infrastructures not only drive regional economies; there wouldn’t be any foundational economy without them.
    • This means that to declare contemporary economics “capitalist” as if by default occludes the similarities that pastoralist economies have with other foundational economies across time and space.

–The list could go on, but so what? I for one would wish as much time were spent on these myopic standards as has been spent on the crises of pastoralists!

Principal sources

https://academic.oup.com/joeg/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jeg/lbac027/6759701 [foundational economy]

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0308518X221130080 [capitalisms as assemblages]

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