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The unfinished development of the frontier: a Karl Polanyi reading of the conflict between the forestry industry, Mapuche communities and the Chilean State 1 1 We would like to thank the guest editors of this special issue and the two anonymous reviewers for their insights and comments, which improved this article. The authors also thank the participants at the 2019 workshop “Incendios forestales y nuevo régimen climático: interrogando agendas de investigación” at Universidad Alberto Hurtado and the VII Encuentro Anual de la Red CTS-Chile 2020, where earlier versions of this paper were presented. We especially thank Sasha Mudd for her English proofreading. The research for this paper was supported by the National Research and Development Agency (ANID) under FONDECYT Grant number 11180611. Tomas Undurraga also thanks the support of Anillo Conicyt-PIA SOC180039.


This article explores conflicts between the forestry industry, Mapuche communities and the Chilean State in light of Polanyi’s reading of capitalist expansion. It offers a historical-institutional analysis of the ways in which the Chilean State used afforestation to tame a wild frontier and the native people living there. We argue that the rise of violence in this zone responds to the State’s growing militarization of the area and reflects the counter-movement of social protection initiated by the Mapuche people - both against a free-market forestry industry that has transformed the landscape, limiting Mapuche access to lands and forests, and a modernization process led by the Chilean State that eroded traditional Mapuche institutions and offered them integration on unequal terms as “poor peasants.”

Forestry industry; Mapuche; Chilean State; counter-movement; social protection; Polanyi

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