Wednesday 7
Towards a Sustainable and Socially Just Transformation: Reflections on Polanyi
John Thompson
› 10:25 - 11:20 (55min)
› Rondelet
Ecosystem Services through Polanyi's lens: from fictitious commodification to behavioral incentives for cultural ecosystem functions
Moritz Remig  1, 2@  
1 : Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies  (IASS Potsdam)  -  Website
IASS Berliner Strasse 130 14467 Potsdam -  Allemagne
2 : University of Kassel  -  Website
Mönchebergstraße 19 34109 Kassel -  Allemagne

Polanyi in his analysis of The Great Transformation describes how land, labour and money as elements of self-regulating markets became quasi-commodities and were included in the market process. These dynamics are still at work and have expanded to other domains of society (Fraser 2012), especially prominent is this process in policies for sustainable development. The concept of “fictitious commodities” is a useful prism that allows us to analyse the economic, ecologic and political dimension of the treatment of ecosystem service. The shortcomings of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes can be traced to their character of “fictitious commodities”, i.e. the limited possibility of converting ecosystem services, especially cultural services, into commodities.

Economists have been embracing ecosystem services and argued for monetary valuation methods that rendered ecosystem functions and the benefit humankind derives from them as tradable in a market system (for example the TEEB initiative). Emission trading schemes, REDD+, wetland banking and other mechanisms follow this logic. Of particular interest is the concept of Payments for Ecosystem Service, which in its current form best illustrates the limits and difficulties when fictitious commodities become the center of economic policy instruments. Since the environment, and thus ecosystem functions, is not a commodity like any other (Vatn 2000), applying a market logic results neither in effective environment protection nor triggers transformations towards sustainable.

Given the shortcomings of the fictitious commodity character of ecosystem functions, this paper argues for an analytical shift in so far as it proposes to focus on the behavioral incentive character of PES schemes (Jack et al. 2008). Neither is the aim to commodify nature, not to value monetarily the environment, but to trigger behavioral change and transformation dynamics towards sustainable development.

This paper is part of a dialogue session proposal “Towards a Sustainable and Socially Just Transformation: Reflections on Polanyi and the Emergence of New Forms of Governance and Social Relations in Uncertain Times”.

Other panel members who have also submitted individual abstracts are:

Dr John Thompson, STEPS Centre/Institute of Development Studies, UK- /

Dr Maja Göpel, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Germany - /

Dr David Manuel-Navarrete, Global Institute of Sustainability/Arizona State University, USA - /

Online user: 1 RSS Feed