Current efforts to locate value in material nature arise from the contrary notion that there is no value in nature. The roots of this paradox are entangled with the birth of classical economics, which distinguished itself from what it deemed the superstitions of both its European past and the exotic elsewhere by claiming to have discovered that the wealth of nations lay not in land (as the physiocrats believed), nor in money (as the mercantilists thought), but in the productivity of human labor, which alone could make more of the “necessaries and conveniences of life” from a finite and basically inert natural substrate (Locke  1960). Once the productive capacity of the land was formally separated, or “disembedded,” from its particular natural qualities (Polanyi 1944), it became a puzzle to retroactively determine the value of the latter’s contribution to the overall means of production. The articles collected in the present volume each operate squarely in the context set by this classical riddle, which situates value, on the one hand, and nature, on the other, as the two absolutely necessary yet diametrically opposed elements of the modern political economy of “sustainability”.
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