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I emphasize three core issues of Söderbaum’s book: monetary valuation of the environment, institutional change and pluralism. I specify some questions that they raise both from the theoretical and policy-making viewpoints.

1. Monetary valuation of the environment as an ideology

–          What are the attributes of this ideology or what are the philosophical presuppositions that underlie the economic approach of environmental values ?

Beyond the NEM, a core idea is that money is the objectivation of the utility of things. While lamenting the widespread perception that money and market relations are the natural way of valuing things, this critique provides no account as to why they appear so natural.

–          What are the primary roots of this ideology ?

As Marx and Engels argued, the possibility of seeing the value of all things, people and social relations in terms of money is specific to capitalist conditions. There is something missing if CBA is not conceived as an analytical form of the fetishism of the commodity and as providing ideological support for the growing commodification of nature.

–          Environmental values are incommensurable. There is no neutral metric/tools to deal with them. Policy-making is always about arbitrating between contradictory social demands. Is (and how) the democratic order able to resolve environmental conflicts ?

2. Institutional change: about the AAA model

 –          How do actors’ interests, values and/or ideological orientations change?

–          How changes in individual interests, values, etc. result in collective action?

–          Should not collective action (by groups) be the primary units of analysis of institutional change?

–          How actors having different values, interests and ideologies could converge toward a common vision of good?

–          Is there not a contradiction between highlighting value pluralism and making the case for consensus or the emergence of a common interest?

–          What are the logics that govern the emergence of environmental regulations in what I call the arenas of sustainability? Is it the quest of an exogenous criteria of efficiency (as new institutional economics would argue)? Is it the convergence of various actors (open to a revision of their values or interests) around a shared vision of good? Is it a logic of power accumulation by actors who have the capacity to be hegemonic, i.e. the capacity to prevail over other actors to accept a compromise?

–          Are not politics and democracy in their very essence about the problematic (contradictory) coexistence of opposite worldviews and interests? Is there not a neutralization (negation) of politics behind the call for a ‘we’ perspective?

–          What are the historical-structural explanations of the current global environmental crisis?

3. Pluralism

–          Is pluralism (and ‘paradigm coexistence’) compatible with a radical critique of neoclassical economics and cost-benefit analysis  (referred as incompatible with democracy in Söderbaum (1992) and as “an important part of the social and environmental problems faced)?

–          As Spash (2011) puts it, Söderbaum ‘wants to be inclusive, even of mainstream economists, but this tolerance rather conflicts with his assessment of their school of thought’. Certainly, as Spash argues, the concept of knowledge production or accepting some grounds for rejecting approaches which they find strongly objectionable.

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