Nature as Accumulation Strategy

Neil Smith


A commodity, according to the classical political economists, comprises and combines a use value and an exchange value. Value, they recognized, was the product of human labour; for Marx it was measured by socially necessary labour time. Capital, he argued, was 'value in motion', and capital accumulation was the process by which capitalist societies multiplied social value through the exploitation of labour. Capitalism has always employed labour power to invest value in use values harvested from nature, and so what could it mean to suggest, as the title of this paper does, that nature has become an accumulation strategy? It is increasingly evident, I want to argue that in the past three decades a new dimension of the capitalist production of nature has considerably transformed the social relationship with the natural world.

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