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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Sarah Knuth

Knuth, Sarah (2017). Green Devaluation: Disruption, Divestment, and Decommodification for a Green Economy. Capitalism Nature Socialism 28(1): 98-117.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper argues that taking up questions of value can help political ecologists and economists develop a more powerful analysis of the green economy, as it introduces new urban, industrial, and technological dimensions into a self-identified green capitalism. More specifically, I maintain that processes of green devaluation, decommodification, and techno-industrial replacement are as important in understanding green economic development as new value enclosure and green growth. Twenty-first-century green economic politics have been marked by Schumpeterian ambitions and zero-sum intra-capitalist struggles, alongside a more general hardening of anti-fossil fuel industry politics from both grassroots climate justice activists and, increasingly, mainstream investors. I explore three interrelated initiatives—disruptive innovation in Silicon Valley cleantech, the U.S. fossil fuel divestment movement, and the global financial industry’s stranded assets organizing—as windows into these struggles. Themes of devaluation, obsolescence (both technological and “moral”), and (more or less absolute) decommodification carry through this discussion as activists struggle to translate quantitative advances against fossil fuels into a more profound qualitative break. Understanding these fights is essential to developing more effective engaged scholarship on climate change and a just energy transition.