Alf Hornborg

Alf Hornborg


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Alf Hornborg is PhD in Cultural Anthropology (Uppsala University, 1986) and Professor of Human Ecology at Lund University since 1993. He is author of The Power of the Machine (AltaMira, 2001), Global Ecology and Unequal Exchange (Routledge, 2013) and Global Magic (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and editor of Rethinking Environmental History (AltaMira, 2007), The World System and the Earth System (Left Coast Press, 2007), Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia (University of Colorado Press, 2011), and Ecology and Power (Routledge, 2012). His main research interests include economic anthropology, environmental history, political ecology, and ecological economics. He has conducted field research in Canada, Peru, and Brazil. Although his research has ranged widely from kinship systems in Amazonia and Andean ethnoarchaeology to indigenous environmentalism in Nova Scotia, most of his publications address global issues of sustainability and environmental justice. Based on historical and contemporary data, he has argued that currently mainstream understandings of economic growth and technological progress are cultural illusions obscuring how unequal exchange (asymmetric transfers) of biophysical resources are prerequisite to modern, globalized technologies. In a nutshell, his argument on "machine fetishism" and "ecologically unequal exchange" can be phrased in the form of a syllogism: (1) The phenomenon of money cannot be grasped without recognizing its function as a mystification of unequal exchange, and (2) the phenomenon of modern technology cannot be grasped without recognizing its reliance on money. To complete the syllogism, (3) the phenomenon of technology cannot be grasped without recognizing its reliance on unequal exchange.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Sciences


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