Material Realities : Why Indonesian Deforestation Persists and Conservation Fails

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

2 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-444
Journal / PublicationJournal of Contemporary Asia
Issue number3
Online published24 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Indonesia’s deforestation is a crisis of global proportions. Its causes are highly complex, spanning local social and community dynamics to national political hierarchies and global corporate politics, current and historic. Development plays a key role, with global neo-liberal imperatives leveraged, resisted and competing with myriad multi-level agendas and actors. Gramscian analysis of logics and ideology, which combine to construct a global and local “common sense,” helps to explain the mixed messages of policy and conservation, which themselves make Indonesian deforestation and its solutions so complicated. Solutions to forest destruction, presented in the form of payment for ecosystem services, multi-stakeholder initiatives, improved governance and transparency within a neo-liberal market framework, have had limited success. The reason for this limited success lies in the notion, encouraged by multilateral and development thinking, that commodification of communities and nature will also conserve forests. Drawing on fieldwork in Indonesia and the United States, this article argues that discrepancies in development and economic policy, which lead to ecologically destructive outcomes like tropical deforestation, cannot be patched up by innovative market tools. Rather, they reflect irreconcilable flaws in contemporary political economy.

Research Area(s)

  • deforestation, Palm oil, political economy, Gramscian analysis, conservation