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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Class Consciousness or Natural Consciousness? Socionatural Relations and the Potential for Social Change: Suggestions from Development in Southern Honduras

  • Author(s): Gareau, Brian
  • et al.

This article addresses the potential of eco-Marxism to enhance understanding of people/nature,or socionatural, relations by focusing on the effect of the so-called natural world on human perceptions of nature and society. Empirical data on hurricane frequency in Honduras suggest that so-called natural phenomena can contribute significantly to human perceptions of their environment. Interview data on an inhabited protected area in Honduras reveal how peasants have been negatively affected by Western-style development. Interview responses suggest that the difficult socionatural conditions in which they are embedded influence both the decisions made by inhabitants and the irrelation to the environment. The data also reveal that humans are not a homogeneous group but, rather, are affected disparately by socionatural phenomena based on different class and natural/ecological conditions. What emerges from the data are socionaturally determined classes, one of them in a highly precarious socionatural condition that likewise holds the kernel of the desire for social change. The data support a conjunction of political economy’s concern with power, social differentiation, and class analysis with concerns about how ‘‘nature’’ inextricably shapes human relations. This article illustrates how efforts made by groups like World Neighbors, a development organization working to make nature a less capricious actor, would be bolstered by an understanding of socionatural class conditions.

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