The Government of Beans

Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 1 illustration Published: May 2020

Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies

The Government of Beans is about the rough edges of environmental regulation, where tenuous state power and blunt governmental instruments encounter ecological destruction and social injustice. At the turn of the twenty-first century, Paraguay was undergoing dramatic economic, political, and environmental change due to a boom in the global demand for soybeans. Although the country's massive new soy monocrop brought wealth, it also brought deforestation, biodiversity loss, rising inequality, and violence. Kregg Hetherington traces well-meaning attempts by bureaucrats and activists to regulate the destructive force of monocrops that resulted in the discovery that the tools of modern government are at best inadequate to deal with the complex harms of modern agriculture and at worst exacerbate them. The book simultaneously tells a local story of people, plants, and government; a regional story of the rise and fall of Latin America's new left; and a story of the Anthropocene writ large, about the long-term, paradoxical consequences of destroying ecosystems in the name of human welfare.


The Government of Beans is an exhilarating read. Kregg Hetherington offers a brilliant theorization of agripolitics built up from the ground up through close observation of how dreams, schemes, laws and a host of small things (beans, trucks, measuring sticks, hedges, insects, traffic jams) transform lives and create new worlds. Anyone tempted by the idea that governing the Anthropocene means finding the right policy, or the right technology, or even the right kind of state should read this book.” — Tania Murray Li, author of Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier

“Stimulating, thought-provoking, and beautifully written, The Government of Beans explores what may be politically possible in the face of the overwhelming power of agribusiness and an ineffective and frequently corrupt government. This important and creative book brings histories, dreams, hopes, horrors, ambivalences, and practices to light.” — John Law, author of After Method: Mess in Social Science Research


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kregg Hetherington is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University. He is the editor of Infrastructure, Environment, and Life in the Anthropocene and author of Guerrilla Auditors: The Politics of Transparency in Neoliberal Paraguay, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Governing the Anthropocene  1
Part I. A Cast of Characters  19
1. The Accidental Monocrop  23
2. Killer Soy  32
3. The Absent State  43
4. The Living Barrier  53
5. The Plant Health Service  62
6. The Vast Tofu Conspiracy  70
Part II. An Experiment in Government  81
7. Capturing the Civil Service  85
8. Citizen Participation  96
9. Regulation by Denunciation  106
10. Citation, Sample, and Parallel States  120
11. Measurement as Tactical Sovereignty  130
12. A Massacre Where the Army Used to Be  144
Part III. Agribiopolitics  157
13. Plant Health and Human Health  163
14. A Philosophy of Life  174
15. Cotton, Welfare, and Genocide  184
16. Immunizing Welfare  194
17. Dummy Huts and the Labor of Killing  203
Conclusion. Remains of Experiments Past  216
Notes  223
Bibliography  257
Index 277
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top