Accumulation by Conservation

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91 Citations (Scopus)


Following the financial crisis and its aftermath, it is clear that the inherent contradictions of capitalist accumulation have become even more intense and plunged the global economy into unprecedented turmoil and urgency. Governments, business leaders and other elite agents are frantically searching for a new, more stable mode of accumulation. Arguably the most promising is what we call ‘Accumulation by Conservation’ (AbC): a mode of accumulation that takes the negative environmental contradictions of contemporary capitalism as its departure for a newfound ‘sustainable’ model of accumulation for the future. Under slogans such as payments for environmental services, the Green Economy, and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, public, private and non-governmental sectors seek ways to turn the non-material use of nature into capital that can simultaneously ‘save’ the environment and establish long-term modes of capital accumulation. In the paper, we conceptualise and interrogate the grand claim of AbC and argue that it should be seen as a denial of the negative environmental impacts of ‘business as usual’ capitalism. We evaluate AbC's attempt to compel nature to pay for itself and conclude by speculating whether this dynamic signals the impending end of the current global cycle of accumulation altogether.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-298
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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