Workshop on Neoliberal Environmental Thought, 29-30 August 2022, Berlin

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Workshop on Neoliberal Environmental Thought

29–30 August 2022

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Organizing Committee: Troy Vettese (EUI), Isabel Oakes (Oxford), Thomas Turnbull (MPI)

How do neoliberals understand and address the environmental crisis? What are their proposals for managing climate change, mass extinction, deforestation, new zoonoses, overfishing and myriad related problems, while preserving the market order? Early on in the history of neoliberalism, its theorists recognized early on that simple privatization would not work for some environmental problems but struggled to create markets in commons that defied easy enclosure. The purpose of this workshop is to complement the burgeoning field of neoliberal studies that has been been advanced in recent years by scholars such as Wendy Brown, Jessica Whyte, Quinn Slobodian, John O’Neill, Dieter Plehwe, and Philip Mirowski by addressing the important but under-researched sub-field of neoliberal environmental thought. 

We are especially interested in the following topics, but we welcome other possible contributions:

  • The environmental facets of the Socialist Calculation Debate, especially in terms of Otto Neurath’s and Ludwig von Mises’ frameworks
  • Studies on environmental frameworks of different neoliberal schools: Chicago, PERC, Virginia, UCLA, Ordoliberalism, Bloomington, Vancouver School 
  • Neoliberal environment theorists in Japan, Eastern Europe and the Global South
  • Neoliberal views on the environmental movement since the 1960s
  • Murray Rothbard’s theory of ‘homesteading’
  • Neoliberal frameworks on new environmental problems such as GMOs, geoengineering, bioprospecting, Indigenous rights, de-extinction, strip mining, land remediation, non-conventional fossil fuels, the ozone hole, acid rain, eutrophication, whaling, etc.
  • Stream restoration markets, wetland banking, biodiversity offsets (Rebecca Lave and Sarah Benabou have carried out excellent early research on some of these topics)
  • The use of environmental metaphors in neoliberal thought (e.g. market as ‘organism’)
  • Neoliberal views on the industrial revolution and working class living standards 
  • The influence of neoliberal ideas on the ecological sciences (especially bioeconomics) and the environmental movement; neoliberalism and the emergence of bespoke privatized science; neoliberalism and the ‘merchants of doubt’
  • Presentations at the Mont Pelerin Society that concern environmental topics
  • The relationship between neoliberals networks and extractive industries
  • The relationship between neoliberalism and environmental economics (e.g. Kenneth Boulding’s cap-and-trade proposal for children)
  • Neoliberalism and the commercialization of outer space

We plan to hold a two-day workshop to discuss drafts of papers in August 2022 (c. 8000 words). Drafts should be circulated in early August to allow all participants time to read papers beforehand. The workshop will focus on providing constructive criticism of papers to improve them for a special issue on ‘neoliberal environmental thought’. We hope to hold the workshop in person, but will make arrangements for an online conference if necessary. 

Please submit your CV and a 300-word abstract by January 31st to,, and Although this workshop is supported by the MPIWG, the University of Oxford, and the European University Institute, there is only limited funding available for travel, so let us know if you need financial support to attend.