Contesting the neoliberal nature of the Mexican national payments for ecosystem services programs: Four sites of articulation and hybridization
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Mexico’s national payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs pay rural landholders for hydrological services, carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and improvement of agroforestry systems. The intention of the programs’ initial funders and designers was to create a PES program that would introduce market efficiency into environmental policy and ‘‘green’’ the market by creating and recognizing the economic value of healthy ecosystems. This article traces the complex processes through which this ideal type conceptualization of market-efficient environmental policy was subverted and the practice altered to more closely fit national interests, rural realities and alternative conceptions of the ‘value’ of socionature. This article examines how the market-based notions of the programs’ designers were hybridized at four distinct sites of articulation: (1) the federal politics of poverty alleviation in Mexico; (2) rural social movements with distinct conceptualizations of ‘conservation’ and ‘development’; (3) the institutional and cultural context of the ecosystem services being commodified; and (4) the socio-natural knowledges and grounded practices of rural Mexico. This analysis is based on a multi-sited ethnography conducted with program participants, intermediary organizations, and designers. The article draws on a growing critical literature on market-based mechanisms and minutely examines the process through which the Mexican national PES program was altered at multiple scales and in multiple forms, from the rhetoric of political speeches to the specific elements of the policy’s design and from the theoretical tinkering of neoclassical economists to the quotidian practices of rural environmental managers.