Orchestrating Consent: Post-politics and Intensification of NatureTM Inc. at the 2012 World Conservation Congress
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This article reports on the results of a collaborative event ethnography (CEE) conducted at the 2012 World Conservation Congress (WCC) on Jeju Island, South Korea. The WCC is organised every four years by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which bills the Congress as the world’s most important conservation forum. Hence, analysis of the event illuminates current and future trends in the global conservation movement. This analysis builds on a previous study conducted at the 2008 WCC in Barcelona, Spain, which provides something of a baseline for assessing changes in conservation policy in the intervening period. I contend that one of the most salient trends at the 2012 WCC was a dramatic increase in emphasis on market-based mechanisms and corporate partnerships, elements of a growing global pattern that has been called ‘neoliberal conservation’ or ‘NatureTM Inc.’, on the part of IUCN leadership and its major partners, particularly the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). While this agenda remains actively contested by elements of the IUCN’s membership, little of this contestation was reflected in the Congress’s public spaces. I therefore describe the WCC as an effort to ‘orchestrate’ the appearance of general consent around a neoliberal agenda—a dynamic that I characterise, following recent theorisation, as ‘postpolitical’—by means of a variety of strategies, including staging consensus, synchronising discourse, expanding alliances, disciplining dissent, appropriating a ‘radical’ agenda, and ‘cynical’ reasoning.