LCSV Working Paper Series

No. 1: “Initial research design: ‘Human, non-human and environmental value systems: an impossible frontier?’” by Sarah Bracking et al.

No. 2: A conceptual map for the study of value: An initial mapping of concepts for the project ‘Human, non-human and environmental value systems: an impossible frontier?’ by Aurora Fredriksen et al.

No. 3: “The natural capital myth; or will accounting save the world? Preliminary thoughts on nature, finance and values” by Sian Sullivan

No. 4: “Rough and polished: A case study of the diamond pricing and valuation system” by Sarah Bracking and Khadija Sharif

No. 5: “Nets and frames, losses and gains: Value struggles in engagements with biodiversity offsetting policy in England” by Sian Sullivan and Mike Hannis

No. 6: “Leonardo’s sailors: A review of the economic analysis of wildlife trade” by Alejandro Nadal and Francisco Aguayo

No. 7: “Assembling value(s): What a focus on the distributed agency of assemblages can contribute to the study of value” by Aurora Fredriksen

No. 8: “Value or rent? A discussion of the research protocol from a political economic perspective” by Elisa Greco

No. 9: “Climate’s value, prices and crises: Geopolitical limits to financialization’s ecological fix” by Patrick Bond

No. 10: “Assembling value in carbon forestry: Practices of assemblage, overflows and counter-performativities in Ugandan carbon forestry” by Adrian Nel

No. 11: “Measuring the value of what? An ethnographic account of the transformation of ‘Nature’ under the DEFRA biodiversity offsetting metric” by Louise Carver

No. 12: “Local politics of land and the restructuring of rice farming areas: a comparative study of Tanzania and Uganda” by Elisa Greco

No. 13: “Calculating Social Value: a critical analysis of how social value is constructed, understood and utilised within public sector value for money decision making” by Rachael Morgan



LCSV Working Paper No 1: Initial research design: ‘Human, non-human and environmental value systems: an impossible frontier?’

Sarah Bracking, Dan Brockington, Patrick Bond, Bram Büscher, James J Igoe, Sian Sullivan, Philip Woodhouse

Abstract. The research programme to which the title refers was initially submitted for funding to the Leverhulme Trust in January 2012, discussed in London in May, awarded in July, begun in September, with the group holding their first workshop in December 2012. This first paper reproduces, with some alterations and reflections, our research design and derivative research protocol. It seeks to show how we are researching the broad and somewhat amorphous concept of ‘value’ through case studies in which the social articulation of valuation takes place. The paper outlines the research protocol by which we will make our empirical results commensurable across the three research domains of development, environment and conservation. We are analyzing how humans, non-human species, the environment and policy interventions are variously valued using calculative technologies, within institutional assemblages and discursive framings, this latter being the particular narratives, value framings and discursive meanings used to explain or understand the valuation process. We are also studying what emerges from this valuation process, which we term valued entities, which are new subjects and objects which have latent, emergent and unique properties.

Keywords: research design, value, social articulation of value, methodology, case studies, research protocol

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LCSV Working Paper No. 2: A conceptual map for the study of value: An initial mapping of concepts for the project ‘Human, non-human and environmental value systems: an impossible frontier?’

Aurora Fredriksen, Sarah Bracking, Elisa Greco, James J Igoe, Rachael Morgan and Sian Sullivan

Abstract. In lieu of an annotated bibliography, we have compiled a conceptual map for the project ‘Human, non-human and environmental value systems: an impossible frontier?’ The map itself is a visualisation of the relationship between the variety of ideas and concepts being deployed by the various researchers working on subthemes within this overarching research programme on value. The map is intended to highlight the spaces of overlap, connection and cross-fertilisation between concepts we are using in our respective case studies, while also respectfully maintaining potential points of distance and/or difference between them. The map is preceded by a glossary of concepts, in which each concept appearing on the map is briefly explained in relation to the study of value and a list of further readings on the concept provided. We are currently using the map to establish how far concepts existing in one epistemology or paradigm can travel and have utility in another. It is also a means to communicate across paradigms and ontologies in order to explore how far differences in researchers’ standpoints on how to define and study value exist as creative frontiers of theory, or as insurmountably independent positions.

Keywords: conceptual map, theories of value, social value, environmental value

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LCSV Working Paper No. 3: The natural capital myth; or will accounting save the world? Preliminary thoughts on nature, finance and values

Sian Sullivan

Abstract. The contemporary moment of global crisis in both ecological and economic spheres is also the moment wherein ‘nature’ is being consolidated as ‘natural capital’. Through this, key interlocking elements are systematically joining the previously rather distinct domains of economics, business and finance with ecology, environmentalism and conservation. The emerging ‘green economy’ assemblage of discourses, actors, institutions and calculative technologies underpins the creation of markets for ecosystem services, including carbon, and is critical in constituting the logic of REDD+ and associated financing. Following approaches in economic sociology that emphasise performative elements in creating what becomes treated as economic, and with particular reference to some proposed financing mechanisms for REDD+ and to strategies for materialising environmental risk, this paper delineates four key shifts enabling external nonhuman natures to become legible and leverage-able as ‘natural capital’. These are: 1. a discursive shift, through which both conservation practice and understandings of nonhuman natures are reframed in economic and financial terms (amongst which ‘natural capital’ and ‘ecosystem services’ are paramount); 2. an institutional shift, in which networks and alliances are becoming constituted as an interlinked assemblage organised around making the core metaphor of nature as natural capital into the materialised reality of accounted for natural capital; 3. a calculative and accounting shift, through which relatively untransformed and restored natures are becoming technically inscribed through numerical signifiers of capital, such that these can be added to and offset against other forms of (ac)counted capital; and 4. a material shift, through which businesses and financiers are turning to accounted for conserved nonhuman nature as ‘natural capital’ assets that can be leveraged as the underlying asset on which financial investment is secured. In the concluding section I draw on selected works by theorists Bruno Latour, Mary Midgley, Michel Foucault and Paul Feyerabend to aid interpretation of these shifts and their world-making characteristics. In doing so, my aim is to enhance understanding regarding the structuring effects of these interventions and the occlusions they may necessitate.

Keywords. nature, natural capital, green economy, carbon offsets, REDD+, discourse, calculative technologies, institutional assemblage, financialisation, economic sociology, Bruno Latour, Mary Midgley, Michel Foucault, Paul Feyerabend

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LCSV Working Paper No. 4: Rough and polished: A case study of the diamond pricing and valuation system

Sarah Bracking and Khadija Sharife

Abstract. This report investigates the contribution of mining, and in particular diamond mining, to the economic development of South Africa, in terms of its contribution to the fiscal resources of government. By necessity it is based on incomplete information, as while extensive efforts have been made to explore and account for the views of industry and government stakeholders, and all assistance is gratefully acknowledged, some parties remain reluctant to contribute data. Indeed, one conclusion of the paper is that more transparency is required in order to more fully make an assessment of the development value of diamond mining. However, based on the information that is available on taxes paid, import and export volumes and values there exists significant discrepancies indicative of possible transfer pricing manipulation of rough diamond values.  This is due to the monopoly position of the De Beers Company and their consequent ability to designate price in various locations in the value chain and when moving diamonds across borders. Because of these discrepancies it can be plausibly suggested that the industry is not contributing the level of tax that could be reasonable expected by the citizens of South Africa.

Keywords. De Beers, diamond mining, trade pricing, tax justice, South Africa

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LCSV Working Paper No. 5: Nets and frames, losses and gains: Value struggles in engagements with biodiversity offsetting policy in England

Sian Sullivan and Mike Hannis

Abstract. Biodiversity offsetting (BDO) is proposed as a technique capable of mitigating development-related harm to assemblages of species while simultaneously bolstering economic development, by constructing such harm as the result of market failures that can be resolved through market solutions. BDO is contentious, attracting outspoken proponents and opponents in equal measure. We examine competing perspectives of interested non-governmental actors through a structured discourse analysis, using qualitative data coding, of 24 written evidence submissions to the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee’s 2013 Enquiry into Biodiversity Offsetting in England. Nuanced positions and areas of agreement notwithstanding, we find that there is a discernible oppositional pattern producing core polarities between organisations favouring and resisting BDO. In interpreting these oppositional dynamics we observe that it is unlikely that this impasse can be resolved since although the debate is framed in terms of differences of view regarding the effectiveness or desirability of specific technical aspects of BDO policy, these differences arise from fundamentally divergent value framings. Struggles over offsetting involve irresolvable value struggles, and negotiations over the assumed (ir)rationality of biodiversity offsetting are thus located firmly within political and ideological arenas.

Keywords. Biodiversity offsetting, No Net Loss, discourse analysis, value struggles, framing

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LCSV Working Paper No. 6: Leonardo’s sailors: A review of the economic analysis of wildlife trade

Alejandro Nadal and Francisco Aguayo

Abstract. Illegal trade of wildlife has been recognised as an important driver of biodiversity loss. In many quarters the use of legal markets has been presented as the best policy option for conservation, giving way to the economic analysis of wildlife trade and markets. This paper focuses on the analytical framework used in these analyses and on its deficiencies, both at the conceptual or theoretical level, as well as from an empirical point of view. We examine the implications of using a partial equilibrium framework dominated by comparative statics in all models and the implications of ignoring market structure, strategic behaviour and multi-product operations in key segments of the supply chain. Furthermore, this review considers the way in which demand is conceptualised and the implications of ignoring the role of economic policies. Our study shows that the literature advocating trade as a conservation solution for endangered species relies on models that are based on simplistic and/or extremely restrictive assumptions. In most cases, these models also rely on conceptual tools that have been theoretically discredited. Failure to take into account the theoretical and empirical issues covered in this review undermines recommendations to adopt market-based policies in response to conservation problems.

Keywords. Economic theory, wildlife trade, markets, conservation

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LCSV Working Paper No. 7: Assembling value(s): What a focus on the distributed agency of assemblages can contribute to the study of value

Aurora Fredriksen

Abstract. This paper explores the question of what a focus on the distributed agency of assemblages (agencements) can contribute to the study of value(s) and valuation processes. A starting point here is the claim that processes of valuation and the production or performance of value(s) are not reducible to human agency or exclusively human social relations, but instead depend on dense entanglements of distributed agency within assemblages involving humans as well as nonhuman actors – entities that can do things, affect others and produce effects through their implication in heterogeneous assemblages. Calculative devices are one such nonhuman actor that many of the LCSV case studies are exploring in detail, but there are others, including the various objects of our studies themselves. This leads to the question, following from Jane Bennett (2010), of what difference would it make to the study of value if the objects of our various projects – carbon, land, nonhuman species, antiretroviral meds – are not taken only as resources, commodities, or services, but ‘also and more radically’ as actors? The paper argues that such a focus on the material ‘agency’ of things entangled in assemblages is a fruitful site for thinking through what Callon (1998) calls ‘overflows’, that is, those things that are framed out of initial value calculations only to force their way back in as ‘counterperformativities’ unsettling the orders of initial valuation projects. Similarly, a focus on material specificity lends itself to identifying what Tsing (2012) calls the ‘nonscalable’ elements of those orders of value that have been made ‘scalable’ through the precarious work of obscuring or framing out difference and specificity with similarly unsettling potential. It is suggested that identifying the overflows, counterperformative entities and nonscalable elements in the LCSV case studies can open up potential spaces for productive interventions into systems of valuation that rely on, perpetuate or exacerbate unjust social relations and the destruction of nonhuman nature.

Keywords. Values, valuation, assemblages, vital materialities, scalability, overflows, counterperformativities

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LCSV Working Paper No. 8: Value or rent? A discussion of the research protocol from a political economic perspective

Elisa Greco

Abstract. This paper discusses the research protocol adopted at the Leverhulme Centre for the Study of Value. The analytical power of the protocol’s concepts, influenced by Actor Network Theory, is weighed against Marxist theoretical contributions on value. The Centre’s focus on valuation processes is complemented by an investigation of the relation between valuation processes and the production of value. Theoretical considerations are interspersed with empirical ones relating to agricultural production and the valuation processes of land and water resources. The main argument is that valuation processes attached to the commodification of natural resources, such as land and water, are to be understood as ideological tools conferring an appearance of naturalness to capitalist conceptions of value. Because of that, the politics of the value relation are to be spelled out as a constitutive moment of the ideological function of the politics of property relations in capitalist society. From this derives that valuation processes are best understood in conjunction with the operations of the law of value, rather than as autonomous entities with a distinctive meaning; and that the labour theory of value is to be retained as the underlying theoretical principle which props up valuation processes. Under this light, valuation processes are understood beyond their material fixity in their uniquely ideological function. While they do not pertain directly to production and consumption, they mediate the extraction of rent – a deduction of value produced in the different sectors of the economy. On the basis of this theoretical anchoring, the paper concludes with a presentation of the research stream on African agriculture, value and valuation.

Keywords. labour theory of value, theory of rent, value, valuation processes, land

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LCSV Working Paper No. 9: Climate’s value, prices and crises: Geopolitical limits to financialization’s ecological fix

Patrick Bond

Abstract. Is it appropriate to ‘internalise externalities’ to solve what is generally considered the world’s worst market failure, climate change, through a carbon pricing mechanism? Or should we instead view the emissions trading strategy at the heart of current global environmental management as a symptom of ‘climate-crisis capitalism’, one bound to fail because it exceeds not only the technical but also the geopolitical limits of an ‘ecological fix’ to ongoing economic crises? The recent rounds of world climate negotiations reveal severe flaws in the character of global capitalism, the role of the state in its transformation and state-capitalist relations. The hope for our – and other vulnerable – species’ survival has been vested in a combination of multilateral emissions rearrangements and national regulation, which since 1997 have hinged on the premise that market-centric strategies such as emissions trading and offsets can allocate costs and benefits appropriately. In constructing market arrangments and, later, an accompanying Green Climate Fund to support emissions mitigation and climate change adaptation, there has necessarily arisen a high degree of uneven geographical development. The sources and impacts of greenhouse gas emissions are diverse, with ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ acknowledged since 2002, and compensation for ‘loss and damage’ recognized as a vital component since 2012. But these global strategies are unfolding not within the parameters of state control of market dynamics. Instead, they remain subordinated to the ongoing neoliberal accumulation strategy known as ‘financialization’. This process is fraught with contradictions, resulting in amplified crises and increasing resort to both temporal and spatial fixes, as well as accumulation by dispossession – the three modes of crisis displacement (not resolution) identified by David Harvey. In this context, recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summits since Durban in 2011 confirm that with the demise of the Kyoto Protocol’s binding commitments on the wealthy countries to making emissions cuts, a renewed effort is underway to promote market-incentivized reductions. In spite of widely-acknowledged emissions market failure, especially in Europe, several ‘emerging markets’ – including within the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa network – have begun the process of setting up markets or expanding their offset strategies now that, after 2012, they no longer qualify for Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism credits. The social, geopolitical and ecological implications are sobering, especially for a Climate Justice movement that seeks to radically reduce GreenHouse Gas emissions in a way that permits Southern industrialization, to decommission carbon markets and to enforce payment of the North’s ‘climate debt.’ Aligned against that agenda, re-articulated state-capitalist relations are both formidable with respect to crisis-management, and futile on their own terms given the contradictions implicit within the spatial and ecological fixes to climate-crisis capitalism. It is, in short, inappropriate to retain standard economic valuation strategies when competition in emissions laxity across the world confirms both crashing carbon prices and continuing capitalist crises.

Keywords. market failure, financialization, climate change, carbon trading, BRICS

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LCSV Working Paper No. 10: Assembling value in carbon forestry: Practices of assemblage, overflows and counter-performativities in Ugandan carbon forestry

Adrian Nel

Abstract. Assemblage approaches are increasingly being used to understand new social formations arising in relation to the multiple crises of capitalism, climate change and environmental degradation (Larner, 2013). The valuation of nature is key to these new formations, with the creation of new ‘valued entities’, through calculative practices, that can be accounted for, costed and circulated in monetised and financialised forms (such as within a market in which they have a price) in order to attempt to fix certain outcomes (Bracking et al, 2012). Through this intensification of the neoliberalisation of ‘nature’ (Castree, 2008) we have seen the rise of prices for carbon emissions, biodiversity offsets in varied contexts, as well as to land and water. Valuation structures and the new socio-natural assemblages that attend them however have been most prominent in regard to forestry, with the emergence of ‘global’ transnational projects and initiatives such as carbon forestry offsetting and REDD+; which aims to tackle global CO2 emissions by saving forests for the good of the globe through particularly complex, multi-scalar interventions within the global south (Mwangi and Wardell 2013). This paper uses an assemblage approach in relation to carbon forestry in Uganda, arguing that it has utility in this respect, but that the fixity of the assemblage should not be assumed a priori, or its stability or permanence assumed. Rather, there are multiple overflows, tensions, and counter-performativities – primarily attendant to unstable social relations – such that the forestry assemblage, as a governance form, offers multiple opportunities for reflexivity and resistance.

Keywords. Assemblage approaches, valuation, neoliberal environmentalism, forestry, REDD+, Uganda

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LCSV Working Paper No. 11: Measuring the value of what? An ethnographic account of the transformation of ‘Nature’ under the DEFRA biodiversity offsetting metric

Louise Carver

Abstract. Biodiversity offsetting and the new ‘valuation’ discourse from which it emerges, is frequently critiqued as the commodification of biotic life through the entangled logics of capitalism and conservation (Sullivan and Hannis 2012, Yusoff 2011). But what does it actually mean to value nature using biodiversity offsetting and through what specific practices can biodiversity offsetting be called a commodification process? This paper explores the ways in which biodiversity value is performed by the convergence of discourses, institutional networks and the effects of a calculative device (Callon 2007) known as the DEFRA biodiversity metric. Drawing from detailed comparative ethnographic evidence from two sites in the English biodiversity offsetting pilot study that ended in April 2014, this paper charts the iterative layers of value creation whereby biodiversity value is constructed as a new conceptual category, stabilised as a commodity and thereby transformed into a unit of exchange. It demonstrates the ways that biodiversity ‘value’ is first rendered knowable through nascent ecological quantification techniques and subsequently translated into economic exchange value by way of constructed commensuration between new value entities.

Keywords. biodiversity offset, value, calculative device, commensuration, commodification, DEFRA, metric, ethnography, England

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LCSV Working Paper No. 12: Local politics of land and the restructuring of rice farming areas: a comparative study of Tanzania and Uganda

Elisa Greco

Abstract. The paper presents a selection of empirical findings on land property in two rice farming areas, located in wetland ecosystems in Tanzania and Uganda. It connects a comparative appraisal of the different land policies and land law reforms in the two countries to an empirical examination of the politics of land at the local level. The consequences of large scale land transfers – and plans for transfers – on local land politics and on local structures of land properties are documented, leading on to a discussion of the empirical findings on the processes of land titling and formalisation of property rights and their reception in the rural societies affected by them.  Valuation of land in rice farming areas is linked to the increase of large scale land transfers. The paper presents five conclusive points on the politics of land in Tanzania and Uganda, tracing connections between land dispossession and valuation processes.

Keywords. land politics, land policies, Tanzania, Uganda, large farms

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LCSV Working Paper No. 13: Calculating Social Value: a critical analysis of how social value is constructed, understood and utilised within public sector value for money decision making

Rachael Morgan


In the UK, the economic and welfare crises, the value for money agenda in public spending and a focus on efficiency and effectiveness in public service provision have led to the inclusion of social value as a measurement of success within social policy, as evidenced by the adoption of the Public Services (Social Value) Act in 2012. In this context there is increasing emphasis on social providers to ‘prove and improve’ their social value through the use of calculative devices such as social cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and social return on investment (SROI) techniques. In a public sector commissioning and procurement context, social value can mean looking beyond traditional indicators of value, based around criteria such as cost and quality, to include factors such as the impact of service models on social isolation, mental health and well-being, and on wider social impacts such as local community cohesion, the local economy and the natural environment. These wider understandings of value, from a range of stakeholders, are now seen as key to sustainable development and achieving value for money in public sector spending. However, this agenda tends to overlook the socially constructed nature of social value results and their presentation, as debates continue around the multiple ways in which social value can be conceptualised and achieved.

This paper offers a critical analysis of how social value is constructed, understood and utilised in public sector decision making through the use of calculative devices, the institutional assemblages in which it is embedded, and the discursive framings used to legitimise and justify its use. The paper draws on existing academic literature, secondary sources and professional knowledge of the construction and utilisation of social value in the UK. The methodology employed enables the presentation of two new contributions to the social value literature, firstly by highlighting the underlying power-knowledge relationship between commissioning agent and provider in this arrangement, which prioritises cost savings and value for money a priori. Secondly, through the rendering of social outcomes as commensurable with monetary calculations, the commodification of social value is placed within a market based framework that masks the underlying agenda of calculative rationality. This approach presents the calculation of social value as an interesting case where two conventionally oppositional ideologies, of socially vs. economically progressive ends, are presented as potentially mutually inclusive and beneficial outcomes to be achieved, and assess to what extent this is accurate.

Keywords. Social value, Social impact, Evaluation and measurement, The Social Value Act, Social return on investment

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