Political Impotence of the Neo-Liberal Ideologues: The Continuing Primacy of Customary Land Tenure in Papua New Guinea

Scott MacWilliam

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    Critics of neo-liberalism’s advance have not always paid sufficient attention to how the ideology came to be attached to class and state power, either internationally or in any country. “Land problems” remain central to the development of capitalism in Papua New Guinea. Proposals for reform of what is known as customary tenure have remained within the liberal tradition, as liberalism itself changed internationally. From the 1990s, one strand of that tradition, known internationally as neo-liberalism, became prominent among the tussles over reform. This article documents how prominence did not translate into the hold on political power necessary to move ideology into policy implementation. Instead of the favoured neo-liberal direction of individualised land tenure, in Papua New Guinea customary tenure remains the principal form of land occupation and ownership.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)693-711
    JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

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