Commodifying what nature?



Publication Details

Castree, N. (2003). Commodifying what nature?. Progress in Human Geography: an international review of geographical work in the social sciences and humanities, 27 (3), 273-297.


In this essay contemporary Marxist writings on the commodification of nature in capitalist societies are reviewed systematically. Recent research on commodities in human geography, cultural studies and related fields have been largely post or non-Marxist in tenor and have paid relatively little attention to the 'natural' dimensions of commodities. By contrast, recent Marxist writings about capitalism-nature relations have tried to highlight both the specificity of capitalist commodification and its effects on ecologies and bodies. This fact notwithstanding, it is argued that the explanatory and normative dimensions of this Marxist work are, respectively, at risk of being misunderstood and remain largely implicit. On the explanatory side, confusion arises because the words 'commodification' and 'nature' are used by different Marxists to refer to different things that deserve to be disentangled. On the normative side, the Marxian criticisms of nature's commodification are rarely explicit and often assumed to be self-evident. The essay offers a typology of commodification processes relating to specific natures with specific effects to which a variety of criticisms can be applied. Though essentially exegetical rather than reconstructive, the essay tries to pave the way for a more precise sense of how the commodification of nature in capitalist societies works and why it might be deemed to be problematic.

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