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Regulatory Thickening and the Politics of Market-Oriented Environmental Policy

Journal Title Environmental Politics
Published Date August 08, 2018
Research Type
Authors Christopher Rea


Scholars of environmental market-based policy instruments (MBIs), such as cap-and-trade and biodiversity offsetting programs, have extensively documented MBI's market-like features, including the ways they incentivize producing environmental quality, risk subordinating nature protection to capital accumulation, and are supported by state-driven projects of market-building (‘re-regulation’). A less emphasized dimension of MBIs is examined: the ways these institutions are founded upon a substantial thickening of state infrastructural power, which amounts to expanding state control over economic and environmental life in ways that outstrip processes of re-regulation. Appreciating the linkages between MBIs and expanding state control over environmental quality may help explain routine conservative resistance to these policy developments. Affinities between MBIs and regulatory thickening also call into question the degree to which MBIs should be thought of as ‘liberalizing’ policy instruments and suggests that, perhaps counterintuitively, the growth of MBIs may present new opportunities for expanding public control over environmental quality.

2018 Rea, Christopher M. “Regulatory thickening and the politics of market-oriented environmental policy.” Environmental Politics. DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2018.1507466