Thursday, July 4, 2013

Larry Lohmann, climate activism, commodities and money

The central theme of a recent issue of the journal Mute (3:4) centres on what I call 'the algebra of capitalism', the quasi-mathematical framework of monetary exchange, on which the so-called efficiencies of production for markets and exchanges using money are based. It includes a great article, 'Performative equations and neoliberal commodification: The case of climate' by Larry Lohmann an activist associated with The Corner House.

Here Lohmann shows how the standardisation and commensuration attempted by monetary exchange and production for money and markets frames climate policy. He concludes that:
The strenuous commodifying processes of simplification, abstraction, quantification, propertisation and so forth reflected in performative equations constitute the deep structure of the attempted ʻinternalisation of environmental and social externalitiesʼ that is the public face of the market environmentalism characteristic of the neoliberal era. These processes continually reinterpret and transform the challenges they confront; their goals are never exogenous but are incessantly reshaped by the very process of addressing them. Internalising externalities through commodity formation gives rise to fresh externalities that continually undermine the internalisation project from an environmental perspective.
Breaking commodification processes down into bite-sized chunks using performative equations helps give substance to the intuition that commodification has many forms, dynamics and degrees ... Should regulation try to revise, elaborate and extend the contradictory performative equations that underpin the new ecosystem commodities, as is implied by most critical writings on climate markets? Or should it aim at progressively ʻdeactivatingʼ some set of these equations? This article ... has tried, in short, to unfold some elements in the core of strategic sense behind many a recent anti-commodification slogan, whether ʻour Earth is not for saleʼ, ʻI am not your ATMʼ, or ʻtu no puedes comprar el solʼ.
The whole article is well worth a read.

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