Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Theory and Criticism


Dr. Nick Dyer-Witheford


The analytical core of this study is the historical development of the relationship between nature and the capitalist mode of production. In particular, we aim at shedding light on the process through which the “grammar” of ecological crisis (and consequently of its possible solutions) turned into an exclusively economic one. In addressing this issue we discuss the successive problematisations of the environment that took place since the emergence of biopolitical governmentality (late Eighteenth century). Following Foucault's intuition, and supplementing it with aspects of Marxist analysis, we argue for a profound transformation – based on a crucial leap of abstraction – of the notion of nature: from enacting limit to the economic process to fundamental element of market valorisation. Especially, we show how this modification discloses a new way to approach contemporary commodification, organised around the crucial notion of general intellect. Carbon commodities, for instance, should be conceived of as second order abstractions: in them, the differentiation between natural distinctness of use-value and economic equivalence of exchange value tends to blur since a decisive element of their exchange-value resides in the ex ante creation of capital-based use-values. Hence, use-value loses its innocence.

The neoliberalisation of nature is analysed – with specific regard to the climate crisis – both from the perspective of its supporters (carbon traders), and from the standpoint of its critics (climate justice activists). Carbon trading – and the dogma upon which it rests – is understood as a material-discursive device through which climate change is seen as a market failure whose only possible solution lies, paradoxically, in further implementing market-based policies. By contrast, climate resistance is the multifarious disarticulation of this dogma. Such a transnational movement is approached through the concept of carbon profanations, which simultaneously possesses a deconstructive component – whose aim is to disarticulate the supports of carbon trading dogma – and a creative element – whose goal is to establish concrete-prefigurative organisational configurations, irreducible to a regime of truth centred around the marketisation of global warming.

Finally, an empirical analysis of Durban's COP17 is proposed as a background against which to interpret the transformative potential of climate struggles, with particular focus on the notion of planetary climate as a global common/s.