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Ecosystem services between integration and economics imperialism

  • Henrik Thorén
  • Sanna Stålhammar
Publishing year: 2018
Language: English
Publication/Series: Ecology and Society
Volume: 23
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: The Resilience Alliance

Abstract english

Here, we explore the interdisciplinary merits of the ecosystem services concept by recruiting the notion of economics imperialism. We identify four different ways in which interdisciplinary concepts can fail as interdisciplinary concepts, three of which are associated with imperialism. First, interdisciplinary concepts can fail to be integrative, typically by being overtly flexible or vague. The remaining three ways, which typically mark imperialist infringements, are: failure to achieve ontological unification, failure to maintain or accommodate a plurality of accounts when it is suitable, and the obfuscation of social or ethical values. We analyze some of the critiques that have been raised with respect to the ecosystem services concept as a case of economics imperialism. We conclude by discussing the scope and limits of the concept more broadly and what those mean for an interdisciplinary ecosystem services science going forward.


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Philosophy
  • Environmental Sciences
  • ecosystem services
  • scientific imperialism
  • integration
  • interdisciplinarity


  • ISSN: 1708-3087
Henrik Thorén
E-mail: henrik [dot] thoren [at] fil [dot] lu [dot] se

Visiting research fellow

LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)



Theoretical Philosophy


P.O. Box 170, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden
Phone: +46(0)46- 222 80 81
info [at] lucsus [dot] lu [dot] se