In New Caledonia, indigenous knowledge was traditionally anchored in a substantive appreciation of the natural environment. Substantive, in this case, refers to the Weberian concept of substantive or value rationality characterized by a belief in the intrinsic value of an object or action. When New Caledonia was annexed by France, the imposition of capitalist relations of production through settler colonialism, mineral exploitation and ranching introduced instrumental or formal rationality characterized by conscious reasoning that an action or object is a means to a particular ends. The natural environment became a means and an instrument to carry out conscious projects for the anticipated benefit of the colonizers. At the same time, the majority of the Kanaks continued to appreciate the intrinsic value of nature because they were excluded from the capitalist sector of the New Caledonian economy, living in native reserves and continuing in subsistence activities which made light use of the environment. However, within the past twenty years an emerging Kanak elite has adopted a value of nature as a means to achieve a particular end - independence from France. Rational use of the environment is now perceived as a way to achieve a specific goal, for example, owning nickel mines to achieve economic independence. Maintaining the tension between Weberian concepts of substantive and formal rationalism, this paper traces the emergence of rationalist thought about the environment among Kanak independence leaders.
Keywords: New Caledonia, Kanak, Weber, environment, capitalism, mines, indigenous knowledge, rationalism
How to Cite:
Winslow, D., (1995) “Indépendance, Savoir Aborigène et Environnement en Nouvelle-Calédonie”, Journal of Political Ecology 2(1), p.1-19. doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v2i1.20128