Chapter 26: NatureTM Inc.: nature as neoliberal capitalist imaginary
This chapter reviews a rapidly expanding body of research in political ecology exploring processes by which environmental conservation has become increasingly conjoined with neoliberal capitalism, a trend we shorthand with the label ‘Nature™ Inc.’ It outlines three main lines of critical analysis concerning this trend: (1) the ways in which neoliberal principles such as commodification, competition, financialization and market discipline articulate with earlier conservation strategies, local socio-cultural dynamics and rural livelihoods, producing novel mechanisms and major landscape changes; (2) how these mechanisms seek to transcend the conservation of particular in situ natural resources to allow for the abstraction and circulation of ‘natural capital’ through the global economy; and (3) the combined effects of these trends on the perceptions and representations of humans and their relations with non-human nature. We argue that these dynamics have produced a truly global conservation frontier: a suite of networks, activities and regulations that are rapidly changing the relations between people and nature worldwide. While acknowledging the need to keep problematizing the neoliberal order in the face of its increased promotion in global environmental governance arenas, however, we agree with a growing chorus of thinkers, practitioners and activists that it is necessary also to promote serious discussion of alternative forms of (re)production and ways of being that go beyond Nature™ Inc. in all its proliferating forms. This entails, first, moving the debate on the politics and political economy of conservation forward by outlining and encouraging new theoretical perspectives on the process; and, second, reflecting on and informing empirical practice directed towards non- and/or post-capitalist spaces and possibilities. In conclusion, then, we outline what we believe are key themes, issues, directions and initiatives involved in starting to move discussions and practices beyond neoliberalism in pursuit of what we call ‘Vital Alternatives’.
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