Green capitalism as rentiership strategy? Untangling infrastructure, institutions, and value chains in the bio-economy

Authors: Kean Birch*, York University
Topics: Economic Geography, Environment, Energy
Keywords: assetization, rentiership, bio-economy, material political economy, green capitalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


‘Green capitalism’ – or one of its many sibling concepts – is usually premised on wholesale socio-technical transition or change; that is, moving from one form of capitalism – underpinned by unsustainable energy and consumption patterns – to another form configured by low-carbon production, exchange, consumption, and waste/recycling. A key issue in this regard is understanding how potential transition pathways are materially configured by prevailing economic/energy regimes and then how they come to reconfigure those same regimes. Building on the work of others on this ‘material political economy’, I examine the way that the bio-economy has emerged from prevailing assets, institutions, and value chains as a strategy of rentiership; that is, the extraction of value through government fiat, monopoly, and techno-economic assemblages. For example, biofuels markets are made through the introduction of mandates and subsidies, securing of long-term supply chains, establishment of standards and certification, and alignment of infrastructure and techno-economic decision-making. In thinking through these issues, however, it is worth considering how such rentiership can be considered as a positive development, normatively, rather than a problematic distortion of markets or form of unearned work.

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