Neoliberalism and the Calculable World
The Rise of Carbon Trading

by Larry Lohmann

first published 22 July 2009

Carbon trading resembles other neoliberal movements of recent decades that have invented new possibilities of accumulation through the creation of fresh objects of calculation and intensified commodification. Such movements include the hugely expanded derivatives markets responsible for the financial crisis, global intellectual property rights regimes, and attempts to transform health, health care and even biological species into measurable, tradeable commodities. Generating both profits and crisis, the ambitious abstraction and commensuration that are vital to such schemes can never be completed, any more than politics or the evolution of a language can be completed.

This chapter in the book, The Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism, edited by Kean Birch and Vlad Mykhenkoto and published by Zed Books, outlines the contradictions inherent in the attempt to form a working climate commodity.