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Abstract

This article lays out a set of arguments about natural resources, the material economy, and resource geography. It explains the productive position resources occupy in the organization of knowledge and establishes ‘natural resources’ as a potent social category for designating parts of the non-human world to which value is attached. The article then elaborates two claims: (1) that we live in a material world in which ‘the economy’ is fundamentally – although not exclusively – a process of material transformation through which natural resources are converted into a vast array of commodities and by-product wastes; and (2) that the material economy of resource production, transformation and consumption is one of contradiction and paradox. The bulk of the article outlines seven specific resource paradoxes: scale/quality, complexity/risk, scarcity/abundance, value/intensity, diversity/dependence, wealth/poverty, intimacy/ignorance – and explains what they reveal about the geographical and historical dynamics of resource production and consumption.