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Published by Ludovic Fansten

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Published by: Ludovic Fansten on Nov 23, 2010
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29 June 2010 
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Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Environmental Politics
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713635072
The economy of the Earth revisited
Clive L. SpashOnline publication date: 08 February 2010
To cite this Article
Spash, Clive L.(2010) 'The economy of the Earth revisited', Environmental Politics, 19: 1, 142 — 148
To link to this Article: DOI:
Full terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
FEATURED BOOK REVIEWThe economy of the Earth revisited
The economy of the Earth: philosophy, law, and the environment
, 2nd edition, byMark Sagoff, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008, xi
266 pp.,index, $27.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-521-68713-3As a philosopher, Mark Sagomade a name for himself attackingenvironmental economics, cost-benefit analysis and especially willingness topay arising from contingent valuation studies. In doing so, he provided animportant early external critique of the developing mainstream economicapproach to the environment. He brought together his core philosophicalarguments in a book (Sagoff 1988), which drew a division between theeconomic and political treatment of the environment. Most prominently, headvocated a distinction between the citizen and the consumer, which waswidely cited. Amongst others, this seemed to strike a strong chord with thoseconcerned by the rise of neo-liberal politics and the spread of the market underThatcher and Reagan. After 20 years, Sagoff has published another version of his book where he replaces 7 of the 10 chapters, making this effectively a newbook. This has already been lauded by some as an important contribution.Sagoff’s basic positions remain unchanged. Environmentalism should bebased on non-consequential reasoning involving the aesthetic, spiritual andreligious, and economics is misguided in applying cost-benefit analysis toenvironmental problems. What is different is the reduced attention toeconomics, politics, law and property rights and the increased coverage of arguments claiming that there is no crisis due to environmental degradation,resources are abundant, and ecologists and conservation biologists aremisdirecting society as much as economists. The book also spends muchtime exploring a variety of ways in which Americans might relate to Naturewithout scientific or economic instrumentalism.Sagofavours dichotomies and so refers to a world of two opposingmonistic value systems: intrinsic value in Nature and instrumental value ineconomics. Intrinsic value lacks a definition and is at one point followed by‘whatever that concept might mean’ (p. 185); this despite the concept beingcentral to ‘the view this book preaches’ (p. 21). The reader might have expecteda philosopher to offer some depth to this conceptualisation and someexplanation as to how this view relates to other value systems, categories
Environmental Politics
Vol. 19, No. 1, February 2010, 142–148
ISSN 0964-4016 print/ISSN 1743-8934 onlineDOI: 10.1080/09644010903396192http://www.informaworld.com
 D o w nl o ad ed  A t : 16 :10 29  J u n e 2010
and concepts to which he himself refers. For example, he recognises preferenceutilitarianism in economics (p. 75), claims himself to be a Kantian (p. 84) andbriefly mentions virtue ethics (p. 191). He also refers to various categories of values, for example, the aesthetic, spiritual, moral, economic, political andscientific. On motivation he states: ‘a human being contains multitudes’ (p. 78).Yet, Sagoff provides neither a clear theory of environmental values nor anexplanation of his various concepts and categories or their interrelationships.The title’s legal reference might have been expected to involve showing howsacred Nature can be protected in a modern political economy. In fact, there isno attempt to use philosophy and law in combination to address environ-mental problems. On the basis of his interest in the citizen, as distinct from theconsumer, Sagoff might have explored making operational citizen power andbuilt on developments in political science over the last 20 years. Instead, herelies on rhetorical appeals to free-market idealism, growth and technology.Apparently, ‘we’ read Americans as the new book is wholly oriented tothem – can have both traditional economic growth and sacred Nature, protectrights and have prosperity. Environmental protection requires no radicalreform of the American way of life. The targets for Sagoff’s wrath are insteadthose who fail to draw strong lines of demarcation between systems anddisciplines.In the new work, Sagoff continues to target environmental applications byeconomists who extend cost-benefit studies from a base in microeconomictheory and project appraisal. In his rejection of the field of environmentalvaluation, he throws out much which might have been informative and fails toengage with developing ideas. He discerns no differences in the types of valuation work being conducted. For example, there is more to be garneredfrom contingent valuation than mere numbers for a cost-benefit analysis, andempirical evidence supports some of Sagoff’s own claims, challenges main-stream economic value theory and suggests alternative institutions are neededto assess value conflicts (Vatn 2005, Spash 2006, 2008a). More generally, Sagoff dismisses microeconomics completely. He thus misses an opportunity tounearth the root causes of problems with the economic approach to valuingenvironmental change and degradation.Unfortunately, Sagowrites as if nothing had changed in the field of environmental values, politics and philosophy since the early 1980s. Forexample, there is no mention of arguments by other environmentalphilosophers concerning value pluralism and incommensurability (O’Neill1993, O’Neill
et al 
. 2007), which have led to the recommendation of socialmultiple criteria analysis (Martinez-Alier
et al 
. 1998). Similarly absent is thedebate over the potential of small group political processes to addressenvironmental conflicts and the relationship to deliberative monetary valuation(see Niemeyer and Spash 2001, Spash 2007, 2008a). Sagoff even ignores hisown contribution on political hybrids of stated preferences (Sagoff 1998).One new area of valuation he does mention is the work by ecologists andconservation biologists producing money numbers they claim represent
Environmental Politics
 D o w nl o ad ed  A t : 16 :10 29  J u n e 2010

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