Grabbing ‘Green’: Cynical Reason, Instrumental Ethics and the Production of ‘The Green Economy



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Human Geography


This paper traces the institutionalization of Environmentalism as a pre-condition for the production of ‘The Green Economy,’ particularly the containment of the oppositional possibilities of an environmentalist politics within the institutional and organizational terrain of a transnational managerial and capitalist class. This is a context in which many environmental organizations – once the site of planning, mobilizing and implementing opposition and resistance to the environmentally destructive practices of corporate industrialism – have become part of a new project of accumulation grounded in enclosure, access and the production and exchange of new environmental commodities. This transformation reflects what Sloterdijk (1988) has termed cynical reason – an enlightened false consciousness; and my concern in the paper is to think through ‘The Green Economy’ and its coincident instrumental ethics as an iteration of cynical reason and an expression of institutionalized power. Specifically, I focus on the development of ‘global environmental governance’ as a statist project that concentrates sanctioning authority and resource allocation in centers of accumulation (e.g., the Convention on Biological Diversity and its funding mechanism the Global Environment Facility) and facilitates the containment of Environmentalism as an oppositional politics through demands that it assume conventional forms of organization, projectification and professionalisation and through facilitating a redefinition and redeployment that shifts environmentalism from a space of hope to an instrumentalist mechanism in rationalist projects of accumulation.



CBD, market-based conservation, green economy