2008 volume 40(1) pages 153 – 173

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Castree N, 2008, "Neoliberalising nature: processes, effects, and evaluations" Environment and Planning A 40(1) 153 – 173

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Neoliberalising nature: processes, effects, and evaluations

Noel Castree

Received 8 August 2005; in revised form 21 March 2006; published online 29 August 2007

Abstract. This and a previous paper review systematically a new and fast-growing geographical research literature about ‘neoliberalising nature’. This literature, authored by critical geographers for the most part, is largely case study based and focuses on a range of biophysical phenomena in different parts of the contemporary world. In an attempt to take stock of what has been learnt and what is left to do, the two papers survey the literature theoretically and empirically, cognitively and normatively. Specifically, they aim to parse the critical literature on nature’s neoliberalisation with a view to answering four key questions: (1) what are the reasons why all manner of qualitatively different nonhuman phenomena in different parts of the world are being ‘neoliberalised’?; (2) what are the principal ways in which nature is neoliberalised in practice?; (3) what are the effects of nature’s neoliberalisation?; and (4) how should these effects be evaluated? Without such an effort of synthesis, this literature could remain a collection of substantively disparate, theoretically informed case studies unified only in name (by virtue of their common focus on ‘neoliberal’ policies). This paper addresses questions 2, 3, and 4, while the previous paper concentrated on the first. It is argued that some unresolved issues in the published literature make it very difficult for readers and future researchers in this area to draw ‘wider’ lessons about process, effects, and evaluations. This is not so much a ‘failing’ of the literature as a reflection of its newness and the way its constituent parts have evolved. It is argued that these issues require careful attention in future so that the ‘general’ lessons of the literature published to date on nature’s neoliberalisation can be made clear. Where the previous paper detected some ‘signals in the noise’ viz question 1, this paper suggests that more work needs to be done viz questions 2 to 4 for any signals to be detected.

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