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WIREs Clim Change
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Natural capital, unnatural markets?

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This short opinion article is intended to provoke debate around the use of market mechanisms and financial incentives as strategies to mitigate climate change and other ecological issues. It does so by synthesizing schools of thought that critique the ‘naturalization’ of the market and examining these within the context of environmental politics. The article first briefly reviews the most serious criticisms of market‐ and incentive‐based approaches to environmental issues, drawing upon literature from sociology, (steady‐state) economics, and moral and political philosophy as well as recent empirical evidence from behavioral psychology. Subsequently, with reference to anthropological observations and a number of political theorists (Michael Foucault, David Graeber and others), it outlines the contradiction between the 'naturalization' of the market (i.e., the market as a phenomena that emerges spontaneously from natural human self‐interest) and the explicit function of the state within neoliberalism to construct markets and market subjects. Finally, an argument is presented that some sectors of the environmental movement have been captured (implicitly and perhaps begrudgingly) by a naturalized vision of the market and hence, inadvertently, are supporting neoliberalism in extending market relations and cultivating market subjects. WIREs Clim Change 2016, 7:13–22. doi: 10.1002/wcc.370

Word frequency shares of the words ‘incentives’ and ‘morals’ (top) and phrases ‘sell yourself,’ ‘sell myself,’ and ‘sell oneself’ (bottom) in all English texts digitized by Google since 1900. (Reprinted with Permission from Ref . Copyright 2011 Google's ‘Ngram Viewer’; available at: www.books.google.com/ngrams)
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