Performativity and pluralities of biodiversity offsetting experiments: Towards a synthesis of economy as instituted process and economy asperformativity

  • Carlos Ferreira

Student thesis: Phd


The University of ManchesterAuthor: Carlos FerreiraDegree title: Doctor of PhilosophyThesis title: Performativity and pluralities of biodiversity offsetting experiments:towards a synthesis of economy as instituted process and economy as performativityDate: September 2013Development and land use change diminish the quantity of natural habitat, impactingnegatively on the number of animal and plant species - biodiversity. Concern about theconsequences of these losses has led to calls for mechanisms which allowdevelopment to proceed only when no net loss of biodiversity can be assured, such asbiodiversity offsets. Markets for biodiversity offsets are being tried as mechanisms forachieving this societal objective in the most efficient manner possible.Theoretically, this thesis develops a framework connecting the Polanyi-inspired notionof the economy as an instituted process, and concepts developed by Callon andcolleagues in the Social Studies of Finance literature. This framework is used toanalyse the emergence, development and expansion of markets for biodiversity offsets.Using qualitative methodologies, the research examines in detail three existentbiodiversity offset markets: Species Banking (United States), Impact MitigationRegulations (Germany) and Biodiversity Offsets (England).The emergence of markets for biodiversity offsets is shown to be the result ofperformativity of economics. Changing representations of biodiversity, anchored oneconomic sciences, lead to policies which create economic experiments, such asmarkets for biodiversity offsets. Because these markets are historical andgeographically contingent, the economic experiments emerge in the context of preexistingregulations and traditions, resulting in variety of forms of organising biodiversityoffset markets. To bring biodiversity to the market involves measuring and quantifyingexternalities. This requires the creation and development of market agencements -assemblages of agents and market devices - to commodify biodiversity. Theseagencements constitute the technical infrastructures upon which the markets are built,but they too are contingent of pre-market practice. This creates tensions between therole of agents and the role of devices inside the market infrastructure. Biodiversityoffsets are shown to not maintain their commodity status beyond certain geographicaland geopolitical boundaries. The result is the creation of mutually exclusive marketnodes, between which no trade takes place. Despite common origins andinfrastructures, the local markets do not exchange between themselves.This thesis contributes a framework for the analysis of market emergence, in which twoliteratures are used to complement each other's limitations. As a result, the thesis isable to conceptualise how a common generative mechanism results in variety ofeconomic organisation. It also demonstrates that it is possible for markets to share aregulatory and technical infrastructure, but not exchange between themselves andexpand.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSally Randles (Supervisor) & Daniel Brockington (Supervisor)


  • Biodiversity Offsets
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable Consumption
  • Conservation
  • Markets
  • Performativity of Economics
  • Instituted Economic Process

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