Hydropower development is making a global resurgence due to endorsement by powerful global institutions such as the World Bank and the imperative to scale up renewable energy production to address global climate change. Employing a green governmentality lens, we analyze the debate surrounding one controversial dam in Laos, the Xayaburi. In the realm of hydropower development in the Mekong, a green governmentality approach allows for both an investigation of the macro-political influences on hydropower development, including trade liberalization and regional economic development, and the micro-political disciplining of state and non-state actors who, through legitimizing particular discourses and practices, reinforce global power relations. Our findings suggest that World Bank-style sustainable development discourses continue to shape ideas and practices relating to hydropower and sustainable development in Laos. However, we conclude that green neoliberalization does not fully explain how the Lao state is operating and that more attention to its practices as an authoritarian state is needed. This case moves the study of green governmentality forward by examining how green neoliberalization operates in a variegated, late-neoliberal world.

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