Environmental Governance in Motion: Practices of Assemblage and the Political Performativity of Economistic Conservation



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World Development


This article critically explores the dynamic, constitutive processes that animate economistic conservation and sustainable development as an expression of governance-beyond-the-state. I focus attention on governance in motion—expanding logics, hybrid practices, diffuse networks, and shifting social technologies that incrementally reshape power dynamics and the institutional domains that enable and constrain them. While the majority of institutional approaches to environmental governance emphasize intentional designs rooted in collective choices, less attention has been focused on dynamic processes of assemblage resulting from differentially coordinated actions across interrelated networks. Building from Foucauldian perspectives on governmentality and biopower, I argue that processes of assemblage help to constitute new techniques of governance aligned with the language and practices of economics. I examine two business and biodiversity initiatives—the Natural Capital Finance Alliance and the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme—in terms of five practices of assemblage: authorizing knowledge, forging alignments, rendering technical, reassembling, and anti-politics. I highlight four dimensions of political performativity associated with business and biodiversity initiatives that exemplify environmental governance in motion: discursive amplification, organizational articulation, institutional re-shaping, and technical instrumentation. Governance in motion reflects the distributed power dynamics of diverse individuals and collectives in generating economistic techniques of governance.



natural capital, market-based conservation, business, governance