In this commentary we respond to Fletcher and Büscher's (2017) recent article in this journal on Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) as neoliberal ‘conceit’. The authors claim that focusing attention on the micro-politics of PES design and implementation fails to expose an underlying neoliberal governmentality, and therefore only reinforces neoliberal capitalism as both the problem and solution of ecological crises. In response, we argue that a focus on the actions of local actors is key to understanding how and why such governmentality fails or succeeds in performing as theorized. Grand generalizations fixated on a particular hegemonic and neoliberal PES ontology overlook how actors intertwine theory and practice in ways which cannot be explained by a dominant structural theory. Such generalizations risk obscuring the complexity and situational history, practice and scale of the processes involved. Rather than relegating variegated and hybrid forms of what actually emerges from PES interventions as neoliberal conceit, we argue that an actor-oriented, ‘weak theory’ approach permits PES praxis to inform knowledge generation. This would open up a more inclusive and politically engaging space for thinking about and realizing political change.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Science(all)
- Economics and Econometrics
- Actor-oriented approach
- Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)
- Weak theory