Theory and Society

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 21–56 | Cite as

Theorizing command-and-commodify regulation: the case of species conservation banking in the United States

  • Christopher M. ReaEmail author


State-directed but market-oriented forms of regulation, especially environmental examples like cap-and-trade and ecological offsetting, have proliferated in the past two decades, but sociologists have been slow to theorize these broad institutional shifts. This article offers a framework for explaining these processes of regulatory marketization. First, I argue that institutions of this sort are examples of what I call command-and-commodify regulation, a mode of regulation that distinctively hybridizes economic and authoritative dimensions of power. Second, I explain how and why one example of command-and-commodify regulation, species conservation banking, emerged and remained concentrated in California, but did not so easily develop in other American states. Finally, abstracting from the case, I argue that the concept of market reconstruction is useful for developing a more general theory of the ways that social conflicts and mobilization reconfigure regulatory power and thus give rise to new modes of regulation. Together, a theory of command-and-commodify regulation and market reconstruction may be useful for explaining the development of a wide variety of environmentally focused and other regulatory institutions.


Commodification Endangered species Environment Institutional emergence Markets Regulation 



Special thanks to Thomas Angeletti, Tim Bartley, Jens Beckert, Fred Block, Winston Chou, Guus Dix, Rebecca Emigh, Jenny Goldstein, Neil Gong, Hannah Landecker, Ching Kwan Lee, Yewon Lee, Michael Mann, Bill Roy, Ksenia Varlyguina, Ed Walker, the Theory and Society Editors and reviewers, and the participants of the UCLA Comparative Social Analysis seminar for many helpful comments and ideas that contributed to this article. Anonymous reviewers in a previous review process were also very helpful. The research presented in this article was developed in part under GRO Fellowship Assistance Agreement no. F13A10071 awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It has not been formally reviewed by EPA. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.


  1. Andrews, K. T., & Seguin, C. (2015). Group threat and policy change: The spatial dynamics of prohibition politics, 1890–1919. American Journal of Sociology, 121, 475–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrus, C. (1981). U.S. fish and wildlife service mitigation policy. Federal Register, 46, 7656–7663.Google Scholar
  3. Bailey, I., Gouldson, A., & Newell, P. (2011). Ecological modernisation and the governance of carbon: a critical analysis. Antipode, 43, 682–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bakker, K. (2005). Neoliberalizing nature? Market environmentalism in water supply in England and Wales. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 95, 542–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bakker, K. (2009). Neoliberal nature, ecological fixes, and the pitfalls of comparative research. Environment & Planning A, 41, 1781–1787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bartley, T. (2007). Institutional emergence in an era of globalization: the rise of transnational private regulation of labor and environmental conditions. American Journal of Sociology, 113, 297–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: towards a new modernity. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  8. Beck, U., Giddens, A., & Lash, S. (1994). Reflexive modernization: politics, tradition and aesthetics in the modern social order. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Besky, S. (2013). The Darjeeling distinction. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. Block, F. (2013). Relational work and the law: Recapturing the legal realist critique of market fundamentalism. Journal of Law and Society, 40, 27–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brockington, D., & Duffy, R. (2010). Capitalism and conservation: The production and reproduction of biodiversity conservation. Antipode, 42, 469–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Büscher, B., Sullivan, S., Neves, K., Igoe, J., & Brockington, D. (2012). Towards a synthesized critique of neoliberal biodiversity conservation. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 23, 4–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Buttel, F. H. (2000). Ecological modernization as social theory. Geoforum, 31, 57–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. California Department of Transportation. (2011). Madera pools restoration and mitigation site. Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Application. Google Scholar
  15. Campbell, A. L. (2003). How policies make citizens: senior political activism and the American welfare state. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Campbell, J. L., & Lindberg, L. N. (1990). Property rights and the organization of economic activity by the state. American Sociological Review, 55, 634–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carroll, N., Fox, J., & Bayon, R. (Eds.). (2009). Conservation and biodiversity banking: a guide to setting up and running biodiversity credit trading systems. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Carruthers, B. G., & Ariovich, L. (2004). The sociology of property rights. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 23–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Carton, W. (2014). Environmental protection as market pathology?: Carbon trading and the dialectics of the ‘double movement’. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32, 1002–1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Castree, N. (2008). Neoliberalising nature: the logics of deregulation and reregulation. Environment & Planning A, 40, 131–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Clark, B., & York, R. (2005). Carbon metabolism: global capitalism, climate change, and the biospheric rift. Theory and Society, 34, 391–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Coase, R. H. (1960). The problem of social cost. Journal of Law and Economics, 3, 1–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dales, J. H. (1968a). Land, water, and ownership. The Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue Canadienne d’Economique, 1, 791–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dales, J. H. (1968b). Pollution, property & prices: an essay in policy-making and economics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  25. Ecosystem Marketplace. (2011). The state of biodiversity markets.Google Scholar
  26. Edelman, L. B. (1992). Legal ambiguity and symbolic structures: organizational mediation of civil rights law. American Journal of Sociology, 97, 1531–1576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Edelman, L. B., Uggen, C., & Erlanger, H. S. (1999). The Endogeneity of legal regulation: grievance procedures as rational myth. American Journal of Sociology, 105, 406–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ellerman, A. D., & Buchner, B. K. (2007). The European Union emissions trading scheme: origins, allocation, and early results. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 1, 66–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ellerman, A. D., Joskow, P. L., Schmalensee, R., Montero, J.-P., & Bailey, E. M. (2000). Markets for clean air: the U.S. acid rain program. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Engel, S., Pagiola, S., & Wunder, S. (2008). Designing payments for environmental services in theory and practice: an overview of the issues. Ecological Economics, 65, 663–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Engels, A. (2006). Market creation and transnational rule-making: the case of CO 2 emissions trading. In M.-L. Djelic & K. Sahlin-Andersson (Eds.), Transnational governance: Institutional dynamics of regulation (pp. 329–348). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Feldman, T. D., & Jonas, A. E. G. (2000). Sage scrub revolution? Property rights, political fragmentation, and conservation planning in Southern California under the federal endangered species act. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 90, 256–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Fligstein, N. (2001). The architecture of markets: an economic sociology of twenty-first-century capitalist societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Fligstein, N., & Dauter, L. (2007). The sociology of markets. Annual Review of Sociology, 33, 105–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Foster, J. B., Clark, B., & York, R. (2009). The midas effect: a critique of climate change economics. Development and Change, 40, 1085–1097.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Fourcade, M. (2011). Cents and sensibility: economic valuation and the nature of “nature”. American Journal of Sociology, 116, 1721–1777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fourcade, M., & Healy, K. (2007). Moral views of market society. Annual Review of Sociology, 33, 285–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Fox, J., & Nino-Murcia, A. (2005). Status of species conservation banking in the United States. Conservation Biology, 19, 996–1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Frank, D. J., Hironaka, A., & Schofer, E. (2000). The nation-state and the natural environment over the twentieth century. American Sociological Review, 96–116.Google Scholar
  40. Funk, R. J., & Hirschman, D. (2014). Derivatives and deregulation financial innovation and the demise of glass–Steagall. Administrative Science Quarterly, 59, 669–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Gareau, B. J. (2013). From precaution to profit: contemporary challenges to environmental protection in the montreal protocol. New Haven: Yale University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Golub, J. (Ed.). (1998). New instruments for environmental policy in the EU. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Gottlieb, R. (2005). Forcing the spring: the transformation of the American environmental movement. Washington D.C.: Island Press.Google Scholar
  44. Guthman, J. (2007). The Polanyian way? Voluntary food labels as neoliberal governance. Antipode, 39, 456–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hale, R. L. (1935). Force and the state: a comparison of “political” and “economic” compulsion. Columbia Law Review, 35, 149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hale, R. L. (1943). Bargaining, duress, and economic liberty. Columbia Law Review, 43, 603–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Harvey, D. (1996). Justice, nature and the geography of difference (1st ed.). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  48. Ingram, P., Yue, L. Q., & Rao, H. (2010). Trouble in store: probes, protests, and store openings by Wal-Mart, 1998–20071. American Journal of Sociology, 116, 53–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kaplan, R. (2015). Who has been regulating whom, business or society? The mid-20th-century institutionalization of ‘corporate responsibility’ in the USA. Socio-Economic Review, 13, 125–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kaup, B. Z. (2015). Markets, nature, and society embedding economic & environmental sociology. Sociological Theory, 33, 280–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kettl, D. F. (1993). Sharing power: public governance and private markets. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  52. Kettl, D. F. (2002). The transformation of governance: public administration for twenty-first Century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Kinderman, D. (2011). ‘Free us up so we can be responsible!’ The co-evolution of corporate social responsibility and neo-liberalism in the UK, 1977–2010. Socio-Economic Review, 10, 29–57.Google Scholar
  54. King, B. G., & Pearce, N. A. (2010). The contentiousness of markets: politics, social movements, and institutional change in markets. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 249–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Klare, K. E. (1988). Workplace democracy and market reconstruction: an agenda for legal reform. Catholic University Law Review, 38, 1.Google Scholar
  56. Lamb, C. (2007). State buys wetland credits to build highway. Sacramento Business Journal. Sunday, March 11, 2007.Google Scholar
  57. Lave, R. (2012a). Bridging political ecology and STS: a field analysis of the Rosgen wars. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102, 366–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lave, R. (2012b). Fields and streams: stream restoration, neoliberalism, and the future of environmental science. Athens: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  59. Lederer, M. (2012). Market making via regulation: the role of the state in carbon markets. Regulation & Governance, 6, 524–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Levien, M. (2013). The politics of dispossession: theorizing India’s “land wars”. Politics & Society, 41, 351–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Levin, P., & Espeland, W. N. (2002). Pollution Futures: Commensuration, Commodification, and the Market for Air. In A. J. Hoffman & M. J. Ventresca (Eds.), Orginizations, Policy, and the Natural Environment (pp. 119–147). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Locke, R. M. (2013). The promise and limits of private power: promoting labor standards in a global economy. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Lockhart, A. (2015). Developing an offsetting programme: tensions, dilemmas and difficulties in biodiversity market-making in England. Environmental Conservation, 42, 335–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Lohmann, L. (2010). Neoliberalism and the calculable world: the rise of carbon trading. In K. Birch & V. Mykhnenko (Eds.), The Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism: The Collapse of an Economic Order? (pp. 77–93). London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  65. MacKenzie, D. (2009). Making things the same: gases, emission rights and the politics of carbon markets. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 34, 440–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2003). Defeating kyoto: the conservative movement’s impact on U.S. climate change policy. Social Problems, 50, 348–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Meckling, J. (2011). Carbon coalitions: business, climate politics, and the rise of emissions trading. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  68. Mercer, D.E., Cooley, D., Hamilton, K. (2011). Taking stock: payments for ecosystem services in the United States. Washington DC: Forest Trends. Available at:
  69. Merton, R. K. (1987). Three fragments from a sociologist’s notebooks: establishing the phenomenon, specified ignorance, and strategic research materials. Annual Review of Sociology, 13, 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Mol, A. P. J. (2012). Carbon flows, financial markets and climate change mitigation. Environmental Development, 1, 10–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Mol, A. P. J., & Sonnenfeld, D. A. (2000). Ecological modernisation around the world: an introduction. Environmental Politics, 9, 1–14.Google Scholar
  72. Mol, A. P. J., & Spaargaren, G. (2000). Ecological modernisation theory in debate: A review. Environmental Politics, 9, 17–49.Google Scholar
  73. Obama, B. (2016). United states health care reform: progress to date and next steps. Journal of the American Medical Association, 316, 525–532.Google Scholar
  74. Polanyi, K. (2001). The great transformation: the political and economic origins of our time. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  75. Quinn, S. (2008). The transformation of morals in markets: death, benefits, and the exchange of life insurance policies. American Journal of Sociology, 114, 738–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Radin, M. J. (1996). Contested commodities. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Rao, H., Morrill, C., & Zald, M. N. (2000). Power plays: how social movements and collective action create new organizational forms. Research in Organizational Behavior, 22, 237–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Rao, H., Yue, L. Q., & Ingram, P. (2011). Laws of attraction regulatory arbitrage in the face of activism in right-to-work states. American Sociological Review, 76, 365–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Robertson, M. M. (2004). The Neoliberalization of ecosystem services: Wetland mitigation banking and problems in environmental governance. Geoforum, 35, 361–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Robertson, M. M. (2006). The nature that capital can see: science, state, and market in the commodification of ecosystem services. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 24, 367–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Roy, W. G. (1997). Socializing capital: the rise of the large industrial corporation in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Rudel, T. K., Timmons Roberts, J., & Carmin, J. A. (2011). Political economy of the environment. Annual Review of Sociology, 37, 221–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Salzman, J. (2005). Creating markets for ecosystem services: notes from the field. New York University Law Review, 80, 870–961.Google Scholar
  84. Schneiberg, M., & Bartley, T. (2001). Regulating American industries: markets, politics, and the institutional determinants of fire insurance regulation. American Journal of Sociology, 107, 101–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Schneiberg, M., & Bartley, T. (2008). Organizations, regulation, and economic behavior: Regulatory dynamics and forms from the nineteenth to twenty-first century. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 4, 31–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Sinclair, D. (1997). Self-regulation versus command and control? Beyond false dichotomies. Law & Policy, 19, 529–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Sine, W. D., & Lee, B. H. (2009). Tilting at windmills? The environmental movement and the emergence of the U.S. wind energy sector. Administrative Science Quarterly, 54, 123–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Small, M. L. (2009). ‘how many cases do I need?’: on science and the logic of case selection in field-based research. Ethnography, 10, 5–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Smith, N. (2007). Nature as accumulation strategy. Socialist Register, 2007, 16.Google Scholar
  90. Soule, S. A. (2009). Contention and corporate social responsibility. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Soule, S. A. (2012). Social movements and markets, Industries, and firms. Organization Studies, 33, 1715–1733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Spaargaren, G., & Mol, A. P. J. (2013). Carbon flows, carbon markets, and low-carbon lifestyles:reflecting on the role of markets in climategovernance. Environmental Politics, 22, 174–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Swedberg, R. (2005). Markets in Sociology. In N. J. Smelser & R. Swedberg (Eds.), The Handbook of Economic Sociology (2nd ed., pp. 233–253). Princeton: Princeton University Press and Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  94. Swyngedouw, E. (2005). Dispossessing H2O: the contested terrain of water privatization. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 16, 81–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Tietenburg, T. H. (2006). Emissions trading: principles and practice. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future.Google Scholar
  96. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. (1998). Endnagered speices act consultation handbook: procedures for conducting section 7 consultations and conferences. Washington, D.C.: Fish and Wildlife Service.Google Scholar
  97. Vogel, S. K. (1996). Freer markets, more rules: regulatory reform in advanced industrial countries. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  98. Vogel, D. (2005). The market for virtue: the potential and limits of corporate social responsibility. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  99. Vogel, D. (2008). Private global business regulation. Annual Review of Political Science, 11, 261–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Vogel, D. (2012). The politics of precaution: regulating health, safety, and environmental risks in Europe and the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Vogel, S. K. (2016). Marketcraft: what does it really take to make a market work? In Woring paper presented at SASE annual conference, June 25, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  102. Walker, E. T. (2012). Social movements, organizations, and fields: a decade of theoretical integration. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 41, 576–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Walker, E. T., & Rea, C. M. (2014). The political mobilization of firms and industries. Annual Review of Sociology, 40, 281–304.Google Scholar
  104. Walker, E. T., Martin, A. W., & McCarthy, J. D. (2008). Confronting the state, the corporation, and the academy: the influence of institutional targets on social movement repertoires. American Journal of Sociology, 114, 35–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Washington State. (1971). State Environmental Policy Act. Laws of Washington, 1st Ex. Sess., ch. 109, p. 623. Olympia: Statute Law Committee.Google Scholar
  106. Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society: an outline of interpretive sociology. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  107. Weber, K., Rao, H., & Thomas, L. G. (2009). From streets to suites: how the anti-biotech movement affected German pharmaceutical firms. American Sociological Review, 74, 106–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. White, D., Rudy, A., & Gareau, B. (2016). Environments, natures and social theory: Towards a critical hybridity. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Widick, R. (2009). Trouble in the Forest: California’s redwood timber wars. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  110. World Bank. (2014). State and trends of carbon pricing 2014. Washington, DC: World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  111. Wunder, S. (2005). Payments for environmental services: some nuts and bolts, volume occasional paper no. 42. Bogor: Center for International Forestry Research.Google Scholar
  112. Zelizer, V. A. R. (1978). Human values and the market: the case of life insurance and death in 19th-century America. American Journal of Sociology, 84, 591–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  113. Zelizer, V. A. R. (1994). Pricing the priceless child: the changing social value of children. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  114. Zelizer, V. A. R. (2011). Economic lives: how culture shapes the economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations