Alexander Dunlap: The green economy as counterinsurgency, or the ontological power affirming permanent ecological catastrophe

Published in Environmental Science & Policy, 2022.

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As old as industrialism or civilization itself, socio-ecological problems are nothing new. Despite all efforts to resolve environmental dilemmas, socio-ecological catastrophe has only intensified. Governments, in response, have unveiled the green economy to confront ecological and climate catastrophe. The green economy, however, has worsened socio-ecological conditions, invigorating the present trajectory of (techno)capitalist development. This article argues that the green economy serves as a tool of global counterinsurgency, managing, preempting and redirecting the inevitable ecological anxiety that could mobilize for radical social change. While fragmenting ecological opposition, the green economy meanwhile serves as a “force multiplier” for market expansion and capitalist development, as opposed to actually working towards real socio-ecological mitigation and remediation. The article proceeds by defining counterinsurgency, and indicating its relevance to the green economy. Dissecting the technics of the green economy, the next section reviews its origins and epistemological foundations by investigating the concepts and operationalization of ‘energy’, ‘biodiversity’ and ‘carbon’. Then, briefly, the article reviews the extractive reality of low-carbon infrastructures, revealing the socio-ecological harm implied and justified by the green economic and decarbonization schemes. The green economy, it concludes, is a governmental technology, preventing collective self-reflection and action to (adequately) rehabilitate ecosystems and address the structural socio-ecological problems threatening the planet, thus preforming a counter-insurrectionary function in the service of state and capital.


Alexander Dunlap 

Postdoctoral Fellow Alexander Dunlap
Postdoctoral Fellow Alexander Dunlap


Published Nov. 17, 2022 11:50 AM - Last modified Nov. 17, 2022 11:50 AM