Publication Type:Conference Paper
Source:EASST010 conference: Practicing science and technology, performing the social, Trento, Italy (2010)
Keywords:Agents, capitalism, Carbon emissions, work practice
By way of presenting ethnographic evidences from corporate practices of the conceptualisation and measurement of carbon emissions, this paper engages with a diversity of actors engaged with greening capitalism. It discusses how effects of consulting companies as well as of an international environmental NGO are enacted by corporate actors whose job it is to manage carbon emissions. Based on an understanding of these actors as agents of ecological modernisation, then, the paper draws out a critique of supposedly ecologically innovative mechanisms.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a leading multinational in the financial services sector over a period of more than 12 months, I focus on everyday work practices as taking place in a capitalist context. It is through practical work that the presences of diverse external actors are imagined and brought into being, resulting assumably as well in material effects. Internal and external actors are forged into a shared trajectory channelled through financial arrangements. Acted out on a stage shaped by interwoven lenses of science, engineering, accounting and management, the co-construction of corporate carbon management allows to further our understanding of how capitalism is recreated and stabilised along multiple paths. First, work in the field is enabled and exercised by a highly diverse mixture of employees, including cheap labour, such as coloured migrants, reaching via white interns and part-time personnel to top managers. We need to understand how their work is interlocked in order to conceptualise measures which would transcend the sustaining of capitalist carbon markets. Second, I will address how the quest for profit is organising the management mechanism. Finally, the paper provides insight into the fabric of the very emissions which are traded through carbon markets. Thus, we discuss the shaping of the artefact "carbon emissions" as a specific kind of entity emitted within capitalism and enabled through an assemblage of actors.
Following these paths allows to question the linkages of the actors involved and how their practical interactions render carbon, nature and our society (un)sustainable. This, I hope, provides a chance to better conceptualise individuals, their social and material contexts, and through that, corresponding room for manoeuvre.
to get a copy of the paper, please contact the author