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Critique and transformation: On the hypothetical nature of ecosystem service value and its neo-Marxist, liberal and pragmatist criticisms

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  • Melathopoulos, Andony P.
  • Stoner, Alexander M.

Abstract

Ecosystem service valuation (ESV) attempts to transform the opposition of human economic necessity and ecological conservation by valuing the latter in terms of the services rendered by the former. However, despite a number of ESV-inspired sustainability initiatives since the 1990s, global ecological degradation continues to accelerate. This suggests that ESV has fallen far short of its goals of sustainable social transformation—a failure which has generated considerable criticism. This paper reviews three prominent lines of ESV criticism: 1) the neo-Marxist criticism, which emphasizes the “fictitious” character of ecosystem commodities; 2) the liberal criticism through Friedrich Hayek's concept “scientistic objectivism”; and 3) the pragmatist criticism of “value monism”. Although each form of criticism provides insight into the limitations of ESV, all share ESV's inability to discern what kind of social transformation is possible. Unable to provide an account of their own immersion in social and historical context, these approaches operate in the hypothetical. In light of these shortcomings, this paper advances a critical theory approach, which we contend provides conceptual tools uniquely well-suited to more adequately address the question of social transformation.

Suggested Citation

  • Melathopoulos, Andony P. & Stoner, Alexander M., 2015. "Critique and transformation: On the hypothetical nature of ecosystem service value and its neo-Marxist, liberal and pragmatist criticisms," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 173-181.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:117:y:2015:i:c:p:173-181
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.06.023
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Melathopoulos, Andony P. & Cutler, G. Christopher & Tyedmers, Peter, 2015. "Where is the value in valuing pollination ecosystem services to agriculture?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 59-70.
    2. Richard G. Newell & William A. Pizer & Daniel Raimi, 2013. "Carbon Markets 15 Years after Kyoto: Lessons Learned, New Challenges," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(1), pages 123-146, Winter.
    3. Sagoff, Mark, 2011. "The quantification and valuation of ecosystem services," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 497-502, January.
    4. Kosoy, Nicolás & Corbera, Esteve, 2010. "Payments for ecosystem services as commodity fetishism," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(6), pages 1228-1236, April.
    5. Gallai, Nicola & Salles, Jean-Michel & Settele, Josef & Vaissière, Bernard E., 2009. "Economic valuation of the vulnerability of world agriculture confronted with pollinator decline," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 810-821, January.
    6. Norton, Bryan G. & Noonan, Douglas, 2007. "Ecology and valuation: Big changes needed," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 664-675, September.
    7. Kallis, Giorgos & Gómez-Baggethun, Erik & Zografos, Christos, 2013. "To value or not to value? That is not the question," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 97-105.
    8. Timmer, C. Peter, 2010. "Reflections on food crises past," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 1-11, February.
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