Value as ethics: climate change, crisis, and the struggle for the future

Sean Field*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Drawing on ethnographic research in Houston, Texas, I contribute novel ethnographic insights into how oil and gas experts understand notions of value. I show that prevailing notions of value are normatively defined in economic terms and closely tied to understandings of an American ‘way of life’. Questions of value, I suggest, reveal our idiosyncratic and shared ethical orientations toward what we think is important and the futures we are fighting to create. The climate crisis, as such, is not a crisis of emissions or hydrocarbons, but a crisis of the ways value is assigned to worldly things. I conclude by arguing that until we address questions of value we are unlikely to address the existential crisis of anthropogenic climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-185
Number of pages9
JournalEconomic Anthropology
Issue number2
Early online date27 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2023


  • Value
  • Ethics
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Climate change
  • Future
  • Crisis


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