The mythical shapeshifting of capital and petrification of labour : deepening conflict on the agrofuel frontier

Garvey, Brian and Souza, Edevaldo Aparecido and Rodrigues Mendonça, Marcelo and dos Santos, Crispim Valmir and Portes Virginio, Francis Vinicius (2019) The mythical shapeshifting of capital and petrification of labour : deepening conflict on the agrofuel frontier. Antipode, 51 (4). pp. 1185-1209. ISSN 1467-8330

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    Abstract

    In the great civilisations of the past, shapeshifting promised a restoration of order in turbulent times in return for the deference of loyal subjects. It was a strategy of the powerful to maintain advantage and could also be used to bind opponents to an undesired form. This study finds its resonance in the contemporary shapeshifting that is the supposed transition from the fossil fuel economy. With reference to the fusion of oil, grain and sugar companies in Brazil's ethanol sector, it explores how amidst economic, environmental and political insecurity these “old villains” of the carbon economy have fused and emerged as the “new heroes” of the green economy. Accounts of dissenting rural subjects, however, unveil the mythical nature of avowed social gains from this shapeshifting. Amidst rural conflict and a successive weakening of regulation, it becomes evident how their petrification, in a metaphorical and increasingly literal sense is required.