Nature, gold and the struggles for value(s)

Irene Sotiropoulou


The purpose of this paper is to discuss collective perceptions of value that challenge the existing theories of value, with a special focus on nature. The paper is a preliminary study belonging to a bigger research project related to the historicity of the theories and perceptions of value(s) and to the social struggles related to defying, change or creating new perceptions of value(s), through discourse but also through practice.

The paper will use as an example the struggles of the people against the gold-mining activities in Skouries and the greater Ierissos area, in the North coast (Chalkidiki) of Greece. Through this anti-extractivist movement the questions of the value of nature, of the value of gold, of the value of job creation and/or job security, of the value of water, of forests and of the human-made environment like towns and villages have been directly raised. At the same time, the discourse and practice of those supporting the gold mining activity is deciphering one more example of capital valorisation process well assisted by mainstream media, state authorities and riot police.

Given that there has not been field research yet within the framework of this study, I will use published material (for example, photos of the protesters’ banners, their blogs, news reports etc) to set and discuss the research questions and show that value, much less the value of nature, is not an a-historical, or even commonly accepted notion within a capitalist economy, but a political-economic process over material conditions and social relations which are continuously contested. That value is probably thought of, practiced and created through several ways other than capitalist valorisation, might be one more aspect of class struggles. Therefore we need to look at social movements once again and see not only their practices which are disruptive to capital but also their discourse and practice which are forming valorisation processes whose logic, potential and limitations need to be explored and discussed because they might be able to give leads to creation of better, humane and truly sustainable, political-economic structures.

Stream: 1) One-day Themed Conference: The limits to Capital & the limits to Nature
or 2) Marxist Feminist Stream – Environment, Nature & Technologies

value - nature - gold - capital - Greece