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Marketing the Market: The Ideology of Market Mechanisms for Biodiversity Conservation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 July 2013

Jerneja Penca*
European University Institute, Florence (Italy). Email:


The emergence of market mechanisms for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services in recent years has been portrayed by most conservation institutions and epistemological frameworks as an unprecedented opportunity for the conservation of nature. This article shifts the focus from the improved effectiveness arguments concerning such mechanisms to examine their institutional and political context and origins. It outlines the field of transnational biodiversity markets and uncovers the normative biases it displays. The regulatory vocabulary of ‘market mechanisms’ is juxtaposed to the more explicit ideological approach professed by the critics of neoliberalism. The argument is that, rather than an inevitable component in contemporary conservation governance, market mechanisms imply a set of contested choices for certain values, a particular economic development trajectory, a particular understanding of the biodiversity problem, and a weak role for legal obligations. Transnational environmental law needs to establish its interest beyond that of the regulation literature if it is to account for the proliferating movements around the world in favour of a reasserted normative guidance for the markets and against the process of marketing the market.

Symposium: Markets For Ecosystem Services
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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