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The Oil Palm Complex: Smallholders, Agribusiness and the State in Indonesia and Malaysia


NUS Press (First Published, 2016)
512 pages including Index


Out of stock

The Oil Palm Complex: Smallholders, Agribusiness and the State in Indonesia and Malaysia offers a fascinating and detailed analysis of the oil palm boom in Indonesia and Malaysia, one of the largest agricultural expansions in recent history by tracing the drivers and socio-economic outcomes of this process. Since 1975 the amount of land under oil palm in the two countries has grown from about 500,000 hectares to over 14 million hectares. The expansion of oil palms is in many ways a microcosm of capitalist development. Conflicts over land and labour and the commodification of nature tell a story of accumulation by dispossession and exploitation of the proletariat by the owners of the means of production. As demonstrated in this book, however, the true story of the oil palm industry in Indonesia and Malaysia, its diverse and convergent interests and production relations are remarkably complex and nuanced.

The expansion of oil palm in recent years and its role in deforestation in the third-largest rainforested country in the world, Indonesia, is a deeply complicated and contradictory tale. The story of oil palm expansion is sometimes portrayed as one of the multinational capitalist enterprises imposing their profit-seeking agenda on reluctant rural communities. In reality, a diverse mix of agendas, ideologies and production relations combine to form a compelling and seductive momentum for oil palm expansion on a massive scale. This valuable book teases apart the multiple, multi-level actors and stakeholders, each pursuing their own perceived individual and collective interests and ideals and interacting in ways which produce diverse feedback loops. Each chapter brings additional clarity to the web of inputs and outcomes which characterise the palm oil complex, providing essential analysis for anyone interested in how and why palm oil has come to play such a key role in global consumption and climate change discussions. The authors also analyse key feedbacks—often onto vulnerable rural economies—from the climate change debate into palm oil production, channelling demand from rich-world consumers for sustainably produced commodities and biofuels.

The book draws on extensive experience to provide insights into the political economy of palm oil. Delving into issues of poverty alleviation and civil versus private approaches to environmental and social problems, the authors pose critical questions about who wins and who loses from oil palm development, and what the characteristic trajectories are of agrarian change associated with oil palm expansion. The book examines how social processes and institutional contexts determine patterns of distribution and asks what conditions would be necessary for oil palm development to provide a basis for inclusive and sustainable rural development. One of the key strengths of The Oil Palm Complex is the uniquely comprehensive overview of how the machinations of elite power and patronage arrangements around oil palm remain key to the oil palm complex. The authors weave a historical picture showing how state lands have been carved up and allocated to clients in the business sector for logging and oil palm development in a national form of the global “land grab.”

List of Figures
List of Tables

1. Introduction
Rob Cramb and John F. McCarthy

2. Characterising Oil Palm Production in Indonesia and Malaysia
Rob Cramb and John F. McCarthy

3. Interventions to Promote Smallholder Oil Palm and Socio-economic Improvement in Indonesia
Zahari Zen, Colin Barlow, Ria Gondowarsito and John F. McCarthy

4. Agribusiness, Agrarian Change, and the Fate of Oil Palm Smallholders in Jambi
John F. McCarthy and Zahari Zen

5. Alternative Pathways for Smallholder Oil Palm in Indonesia: International Comparisons
Lesley M. Potter

6. The Political Economy of Large-scale Oil Palm Development in Sarawak
Rob Cramb

7. Oil Palm Smallholders and State Policies in Sarawak
Rob Cramb and Patrick S. Sujang

8. Oil Palm Plantations and Conflict in Indonesia: Evidence from West Kalimantan
Patrice Levang, Wahyu F. Riva and Meri G. Orth

9. People, Participation, Power: The Upstream Complexity of Indonesian Oil Palm Plantations
Piers Gillespie

10. Opposition to Oil Palm Plantations in Kalimantan: Divergent Strategies, Convergent Outcomes
Greg Acciaioli and Oetami Dewi

11. Situating Transmigration in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Labour Regime
Tania Murray Li

12. Malaysian Oil Palm and Indonesian Labour Migration: A Perspective from Sarawak
Sunny Sanderson

13. Deconstructing the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
Oliver Pye

14. Conclusion
John F. McCarthy and Rob Cramb

List of Contributors

Weight0.5 kg
Dimensions23.5 × 15.6 × 1.5 cm

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