Alf Hornborg

Professor, , PhD

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Sciences



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.


Recent research outputs

Alf Hornborg, 2020 Jun 25, In : Historical Materialism.

Research output: Contribution to journalDebate/Note/Editorial

Alf Hornborg, 2020 May 21, Dagens arena.

Research output: Contribution to specialist publication or newspaperNewspaper article

Alf Hornborg, 2020, (Accepted/In press) Craving for reality: Problems with the material turn. Boysen, B. & Lundsfryd Rasmussen, J. (eds.). Bloomsbury Academic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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