Nature™ Inc.: Changes and Continuities in Neoliberal Conservation and Market-based Environmental Policy


  • Murat Arsel,

    1. is Associate Professor of Environment and Development at the International Institute of Social Studies, PO Box 29776, 2502 LT The Hague, The Netherlands (e-mail: He obtained his PhD in Geography from the University of Cambridge and was a post-doctoral lecturer at the University of Chicago. His current research focuses on natural resource conflicts in Turkey, China and Ecuador. He is the co-editor (with Max Spoor) of Water, Environmental Security and Sustainable Rural Development in Central Eurasia (Routledge, 2010). He can be contacted by e-mail:
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  • Bram Büscher

    1. is Associate Professor of Environment and Sustainable Development at the International Institute of Social Studies, PO Box 29776, 2502 LT The Hague, The Netherlands (e-mail: He received his PhD from the VU University Amsterdam and held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies of the University of Johannesburg, South Africa from September 2008 to January 2012. His research interests revolve around transfrontier conservation and conservation/development interventions, green neoliberalism/capitalism, (eco)tourism and the political economy of energy. He recently received a prestigious NWO (Dutch Scientific Research Organization) Veni grant for a research project entitled ‘Nature 2.0: The Political Economy of Conservation in Online and Southern African Environments’. His forthcoming book, Transforming the Frontier. ‘Peace Parks’ and the Politics of Neoliberal Conservation in Southern Africa, will be published by Duke University Press.
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Many thanks to our co-organizers of the Nature™ Inc. conference (Max Spoor, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Dan Brockington, Wolfram Dressler and Sara Pavan), all the conference participants, the Development and Change Editorial Board and Paula Bownas and Friedl Marincowitz for their hard work on this issue, all the referees that worked under strict deadlines, and Nancy Peluso, Sarah Bracking and Dan Brockington for their engagement with and incisive comments on this piece.


Nature™ Inc. describes the increasingly dominant way of thinking about environmental policy and biodiversity conservation in the early twenty-first century. Nature is, and of course has long been, ‘big business’, especially through the dynamics of extracting from, polluting and conserving it. As each of these dynamics seems to have become more intense and urgent, the capitalist mainstream is seeking ways to off-set extraction and pollution and find (better) methods of conservation, while increasing opportunities for the accumulation of capital and profits. This has taken Nature™ Inc. to new levels, in turn triggering renewed attention from critical scholarship. The contributions to this Debate section all come from a critical perspective and have something important to say about the construction, workings and future of Nature™ Inc. By discussing the incorporation of trademarked nature and connecting what insights the contributions bring to the debate, we find that there might be what we call an intensifying dialectic between change and limits influencing the relations between capitalism and nature. Our conclusion briefly points to some of the issues and questions that this dialectic might lead to in future research on neoliberal conservation and market-based environmental policy.