In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Politics of Extraction: Theories and New Concepts for Critical Analysis

  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Global Environmental Governance
  • Marxist Approaches

International Relations Politics of Extraction: Theories and New Concepts for Critical Analysis
Markus Kröger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0292


The politics of extraction have not been in the limelight of international relations (IR) theory or scholarship. This situation is starting to change, however, with the rapid expansion of climate change, which has started to make it impossible to discuss any key topic of IR without taking the changing planet and environment seriously into consideration, even placing this as the key issue, for example by interweaving world-ecology within theories. An increasing number of IR scholars are calling climate change an imminent emergency and catastrophe that is already starting to have major impacts on global politics. The linkages between politics of extraction, globally expanding extractivisms, and the climate and ecological crises are not always straightforward, as much of the new extraction is taking place under the label of sustainability, bioeconomy, or green economy transitions. These politics can involve however dire land conflicts with enclosures, violence and armed struggles around the establishment of so-called green energy plantations, capacities for biofuel production, or extensive tree plantations displacing forests, in the name of fighting climate change. This has led to major conflicts between many carbon-focused climate policies and indigenous communities, for example. Several new schools of theorizing have risen to explain and follow these politics in the interface of global extractivisms, land rushes, green grabs, resource scrambles, and carbon, energy, and climate interfaces. Uncovering the dynamics of these politics in the interface of current climate and ecological crises and their solution attempts requires critical theoretical approaches. After an overview of journals, books, databases, and methodology, major theoretical approaches and the differences between them are surveyed, including the literature on global environmental governance, political ecology, and the Marxist and post-Cartesian approaches. Finally, the latest and most important concepts used to study the politics of extraction are explored. These organizing concepts include land grabbing, extractivism, resource frontiers, and the green economy, and their analysis crosses many fields and has provided much development in the field of the politics of extraction in recent years. This field is evolving rapidly, and concepts such as extractivism are gaining ground in a rising number of different applications and theoretical advancements. The methods, theoretical approaches, and organizing concepts reviewed here can be used for different types of analyses of natural resource politics across differing sectors and targets of extraction, which are assessed in detail in the Oxford Bibliographies article “Natural Resources, Energy Politics, and Environmental Consequences.”

General Overview

Several theoretical schools have approached global extraction in ways that are helpful for IR. The existing studies on global environmental politics, governance, and political economy have much to offer on the way to developing the analytical and conceptual frameworks for studying global extraction. The politics of extraction is fast becoming a key topic of global and international studies due to rapidly cascading global environmental and ecological crises, and the understanding that these are tied to rising extraction, usage of raw materials, and politics around the environment. Specific journals, books, methods, and data-gathering initiatives support this endeavor. The first part of this article provides a general overview of the journals, databases, and methodologies that deal with or are helpful in approaching the politics of extraction from a global perspective.

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