Valuing species: the continuities between non-market and market valuations in biodiversity conservation

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This article explores how the rise of new markets for biodiversity has been
facilitated by existing, non-market-based valuation practices within the field of
biodiversity conservation. Where others have considered biodiversity markets
in terms of capitalist and/or neoliberal expansion, I argue that the abstraction
of the value of living things in markets is made easier by the existing valuation
practices of species-based biodiversity conservation. After briefly
contextualising the terms ‘species’ and ‘biodiversity’ within the history of
Western conservation, the article shows how biodiversity conservation—as
science, policy and practice—subordinates the value of individual living
organisms and emplaced ecologies to the abstract categories of species and
habitat types. This conceptual move performs a condition of ethical
commensurability between individual organisms and places, thereby
prefiguring the equivalence of value between units of the same category
needed to establish new markets for biodiversity. The article considers this link
between the valuation practices of species-based biodiversity conservation and
new markets for biodiversity as an instance of performative continuity. The
article concludes by reflecting on the critical use of attending to the links
between existing valuation practices in biodiversity conservation and new
biodiversity markets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalValuation Studies
Issue number1
Early online date6 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • biodiversity conservation; species; valuation; markets; performativity


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