The Theory of Unequal Ecological Exchange

The Theory of Unequal Ecological Exchange: A Marx-Odum Dialectic,” [PDF] (coauthored with Hannah Holleman, authors listed alphabetically) Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 41, no. 2 (2014), pp. 199-233. DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2014.889687.

A world-system analysis of the ecological rift generated by capitalism requires as one of its elements a developed theory of the unequal ecological exchange between center and periphery. After reviewing the literature on unequal exchange (both economic and ecological) from Ricardo and Marx to the present, a new approach is provided, based on a critical appropriation of systems ecologist Howard Odum’s emergy (spelled with an m) analysis. Odum’s contribution offers key elements of a wider dialectical synthesis, made possible in part by his intensive studies of Marx’s political-economic critique of capitalism and by Marx’s own theory of metabolic rift.

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