“Value Grabbing”: A Political Ecology of Rent

Erik Swyngedouw, Diego Andreucci, Melissa García Lamarca, Jonah Wedekind

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This paper aims to redress the under-appreciated significance of rent for political ecological analysis. We introduce the notion of value grabbing, defined as the appropriation of (surplus) value through rent. A concept that is analytically distinct from accumulation, rent is both a social relation and a distributional process that is increasingly central to the reproduction of contemporary capitalism. Emphasis is placed on the “grabbing” of value in order to shed light on the processes at work by which surplus value is distributed unevenly between different classes and fractions of classes. A focus on rent within political ecology, we argue, can help us distinguish between two organically related but analytically distinct “moments”: (a) the creation of property rights that establish rent relations and (b) the struggle over the appropriation and distribution of surplus value generated by the rent relation itself. We explore some of the implications of this perspective for understanding new forms of socio-ecological struggles and their varied relations to the state. We maintain that a value-grabbing perspective has far-reaching consequences for political ecology, as it provides a sharp conceptual tool for situating a wide range of socio-ecological conflicts and movements as class struggles over value appropriation and distribution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-47
JournalCapitalism, Nature, Socialism
Issue number3
Early online date12 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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