Failure to expand? Socio-technical practices and moral judgement in markets for biodiversity offsets

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Markets have become an important form of governance in the neoliberal era. The ideology of markets as the most efficient form of organising economic activity has led to the expansion of their usage, both in terms of what is governed by the market, but also in terms of the spaces in which the practices of a given market apply. However, there have been important challenges to market expansion, particularly on political and ethical grounds. This paper analyses how the socio-technical practices of market expansion can be affected by political contestation and individual moral judgements. This is analysed in the context of two markets for biodiversity offsets, in the United States and England. In both cases, regulators attempted to devise and standardise calculative mechanisms and socio-technical practices that promoted the use and expansion of the market. However, these socio-technical market practices have struggled to cross and negotiate uneven political and social spaces, being subject to moral judgements and political contestation. The paper demonstrates how the socio-technical practices of market expansion are affected by social entanglements, highlighting how this creates limits to the expansion of the market as a form of governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)716-733
Number of pages18
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number5
Early online date13 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2019



  • Biodiversity offsets
  • governance
  • market expansion
  • moral economy
  • technological zones
  • marketisation
  • noxious markets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

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