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Exploring the Connections Between Inequality, Community Dysfunction and Sustainability: Fishery Case Studies from Newfoundland, Tasmania and Pakistan

Phillips, GV 2007 , 'Exploring the Connections Between Inequality, Community Dysfunction and Sustainability: Fishery Case Studies from Newfoundland, Tasmania and Pakistan', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Analysis of political economy within primary sectors such as fisheries and agriculture provides
insights that can be applied more broadly. Since the 1990s there has been a growing recognition
that the world's fisheries are in a state of crisis and that this is symptomatic of a more general,
global sustainability crisis. In fisheries, worldwide, excessive capacity is harvesting fish at
unsustainable levels. New technologies for communication and the processing, transport and
storage of fish is contributing to the development of expanding marketing opportunities. These
generate economic incentives that motivate ever more intensive fishing effort on declining
stocks of increasingly valuable fish. In addition, environmental damage to marine and
freshwater ecosystems undermines their capacity to sustain healthy, productive fisheries.
Fishing communities are also experiencing stress associated with worldwide trends in fisheries
management. These trends can be linked to the global ascendancy of neoliberalism as, a
political culture, and a feature of fisheries debate over the past two decades has been the contest
between advocates of market mechanisms, private property rights and economic efficiency,
versus defenders of social values. Both sides have sought to incorporate the concept of
sustainability into their arguments. The aim of this thesis is to examine the relationship of these
social and political-economic trends with sustainability in fisheries, and to consider the
implications for the sustainability of societies more generally.
The thesis is based on case studies featuring Newfoundland, Tasmania and Pakistan, in which
fisheries issues are examined ' within the context of broader cultural and structural
characteristics. Comparisons and cross references are made between the case studies, and they
are also linked by the development of an ongoing discussion of themes relevant to the economic
versus social fishery debate. Social inequality emerges as a key issue in the interaction of
social, political, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability.
The first case study focuses on Newfoundland, where the collapse of the cod fishery in the early
1990s came to serve as symbolic of the worldwide problem. Historically entrenched social
dualism, or inequality, was found to be a significant factor in various forms of sustainability
dysfunction in the social and material structure of Newfoundland's fisheries, and of
Newfoundland society more generally. It was implicated in various of the interrelated,
underlying "causes" of the fishery's failure including the institutional corruption of the scientific
processes that were the basis of fishery management.
Tasmania, the site of the second case study, shares many points of comparison with
Newfoundland, including the persistence of characteristics that are linked to a history of
institutionally entrenched inequality. In Tasmania these are a legacy of European settlement
through the establishment of a convict colony at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The
Tasmanian case study examines how these characteristics have been perpetuated by a political
and resource management culture that is contemptuous of transparency and democratic
processes and which tends to serve established vested interests and foster rent-seeking activity.
The influence of this political culture on resource management and environmental protection in
Tasmania raises questions, in light of the Newfoundland experience, of Tasmania's prospects
for sustainability.
The third case study focuses on Pakistan. Social dualism, identified as a key factor in the
Tasmania and Newfoundland case studies, is a pronounced, arguably defining characteristic of
Pakistani society. Pakistan is afflicted by poverty, corruption, dysfunctional institutions and an
economy distorted by structural characteristics associated with unproductive rent-seeking
activities. Military dictatorship, sectarian violence, a constant threat of war with its neighbours
and the rise of militant religious fundamentalism are also features of Pakistan's seemingly
perpetual state of crisis. A fishery case study demonstrates the apparent compatibility and easy
integration of market mechanisms and private property rights within Pakistan's traditional
feudal system, but shows how, ultimately, this does not support institutional and social
structures conducive to sustainability. The analysis is extended to establish a link between the
social and economic insecurity of people displaced from access to resources, whether this is a
consequence of political aspects of distribution or results from environmental collapse, and the
rise of fundamentalisms, which, through their suppression of communal rationality, become
causes as well as symptoms of sustainability dysfunction. In conclusion, the study supports
arguments that the transformation of fisheries, and by extension, of societies more generally in
accordance with prevailing neoliberal trends undermines the social cohesion and institutional,
integrity required for sustainability.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Phillips, GV
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