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Stopping Firestone and starting a citizen ‘revolution from below’: reflections on the enduring exploitation of Liberian land and labour

Pailey, Robtel Neajai ORCID: 0000-0001-9584-6524 (2023) Stopping Firestone and starting a citizen ‘revolution from below’: reflections on the enduring exploitation of Liberian land and labour. Third World Quarterly. ISSN 0143-6597

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Identification Number: 10.1080/01436597.2023.2240729


Attempting to reduce America’s dependence on foreign-sourced rubber, Firestone established in 1926 the world’s largest industrial plantation in Liberia under a controversial 99-year-lease agreement. Nearly a century later, backlash against the exploitative nature of corporate hegemony and economic globalisation crystallised in a transnational campaign, Stop Firestone, and class action suit to hold the multinational accountable. I argue in this article that Liberia’s unequal incorporation into global capitalism has configured and reconfigured the set of relations between government and citizens through parallel, albeit interrelated, processes—the globalisation of capital (via trade and investments) and the globalisation of rights (via universalised notions of citizenship as a human right). While the pursuit of foreign direct investment (FDI) in particular placed the interests of investors like Firestone ‘above’ the state thus undermining government–citizen relations, it simultaneously created a politicised workforce and network of Liberian activists thus strengthening citizen–citizen relations. Based on careful review of concession agreements and court proceedings as well as interviews conducted with government officials, activists and legal advocates based in Liberia and the United States, this article is the first to meld historical and contemporary developments, underscoring the twenty-first century implications of Firestone’s enduring exploitation of Liberian land and labour.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2023 13:27
Last Modified: 19 May 2024 04:33

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