We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Industrial dynamics on the commodity frontier: managing time, space and form in mining, tree plantations and intensive aquaculture.

Banoub, D. and Bridge, G. and Bustos, B. and Ertör, I. and González-Hidalgo, M. and de los Reyes, J. (2021) 'Industrial dynamics on the commodity frontier: managing time, space and form in mining, tree plantations and intensive aquaculture.', Environment and planning E : nature and space., 4 (4). pp. 1533-1559.


Research in political ecology and agrarian political economy has shown how commodity frontiers are constituted through the appropriation and transformation of nature. This work identifies two broad processes of socio-metabolism associated with commodity frontiers: the spatial extension of nature-appropriation, via expanding territorial claims to the control and use of natural resources and associated acts of dispossession (commodity-widening); and the intensification of appropriation at existing sites, through socio-technical innovation and the growing capitalisation of production (commodity-deepening). While sympathetic, we have reservations about reducing frontier metabolism to either one or the other of these processes. We argue for more grounded examinations of how non-human nature is actively reconstituted at commodity frontiers, attuned to the diverse and specific ways in which socio-ecological processes are harnessed to dynamics of accumulation. To achieve this, we compare strategies of appropriation in three sectors often associated with the commodity frontier: gold mining, tree plantations, and intensive aquaculture. In doing so, we bring research on capitalism as an ecological regime into conversation with work on the industrial dynamics of ‘nature-facing’ sectors. By harnessing the analytical categories of time, space and form adopted by research on industrial dynamics, we (i) show how strategies of commodity-widening and deepening are shaped in significant ways by the biophysical characteristics of these sectors; and (ii) identify a third strategy, beyond commodity-widening and deepening, that involves the active reconstitution of socio-ecological systems - we term this ‘commodity-transformation.’

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
Download PDF (Advance online version)
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Date accepted:06 September 2020
Date deposited:29 September 2020
Date of first online publication:21 October 2020
Date first made open access:29 September 2020

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar