Resource geographies I: Valuing nature (or not)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


The relationship between value and nature has become central to critical resource geography (and other nature-society geography). While research demonstrates the problems with efforts to extend capitalist monetary value to ecosystem services or externalities, few scholars have anchored their critiques in their own theory of value. This report reviews this bourgeoning research through a theory of value anchored in Marxian political economy. Drawing from a few basic postulates, I attempt to fill some gaps and clear up some ambiguities in this research. First, I examine research on environmental valuations schemes (e.g. pricing externalities, or payments for ecosystem services). Marx’s value theory (rooted in abstract labor) can help us to explain why these projects seem so destined for failure. Second, I examine research into how resources and value flow through commodity chains or global production networks. Marx’s focus on labor and abstraction can help us to better understand the violence within these chains toward humans and nonhumans alike. Third, I examine research into the financialization of environmental goods in services. I suggest Marx’s value-theoretical approach to the ‘totality’ of capitalist social relations can better help us to theorize financial capital’s contradictory relationship to value production in the realm of production. I conclude by suggesting a unified theory of value can yield a more radical critique of the diverse failures of capitalism in dealing with our current ecological crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-159
Number of pages12
JournalProgress in Human Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • commodity chains
  • ecosystem services
  • externalities
  • financialization
  • global production networks
  • value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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