Value and bureaucratic violence in the green economy

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    The green economy now dominates global environmental governance, but its potentially insidious inner-workings and effects remain poorly understood. To probe this problem, it is necessary to explore how value is created and distributed in the green economy, and how the production processes of new green commodities like carbon credits shape the social and material realities from which they emerge. In this article, we examine how voluntary carbon credits are produced and acquire value through the implementation of REDD+ in voluntary markets, which essentially entails the demonstration of project compliance with a set of techno-bureaucratic standards or rules, known as validation and verification. Through participant observation of these processes at a REDD+ project site in Cambodia, we reveal how the REDD+ standards give rise to bureaucratic performance and disciplined adherence to an "audit culture" that is both apolitical and indifferent to local realities. The local realities observed in Cambodia entailed profound environmental and social injustices, especially for indigenous communities facing illegal logging and land alienation. While the REDD+ initiative initially engaged these communities in Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and indigenous communal land titling, the techno-bureaucratic exigencies of the REDD+ standards ultimately curtailed such formal possibilities for local rights and agency. We call this phenomenon bureaucratic violence, as it involves the implementation of mundane technical rules that hide local contestation, sideline criticism and deny justice. Furthermore, we argue that bureaucratic violence is fundamental to the generation of value in the green economy, as a process that works alongside commodification, spectacle, and other forms of structural and material violence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)133-143
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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