Virtuous carbon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To provides an overall framework for thinking about the construction of carbon markets, we adopt James Der Derian's 'virtuous war' theory to develop an argument about carbon as a virtuous commodity. This refers to the close affinity between virtuality and virtue - the technological and the ethical - in the construction of carbon markets. The figure of virtuous carbon draws attention to both the fictitious character of carbon units (as imagined things, complex abstractions that exist only by way of agreement) and their virtue (how those units are only provisionally stabilised, and where their ethical contestation is part of their construction). We explore virtuality and virtue at five moments in the commodification of carbon (invention, proliferation, verification, and differentiation into two forms). Virtuous carbon thereby captures the emergence of a distinct sort of governmentality, which aims to neutralise resistance by imbuing the commodities of carbon markets with a self-evident moral quality.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science


  • climate change, carbon markets, governmentality, virtue, virtuality, James Der Derian
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-582
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch