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Economic evaluation of the environment in the context of justification conflicts: development of concepts and methods through examples of water management in France

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This paper develops an account of practices of "economic valuation of the environment" as contingent social processes that find their place - implicitly or explicitly - within debates of justification. Following work by French analysts Boltanski and Thevenot, it is suggested that these justification requirements may involve confrontation between different value systems and views of the world or conflict of interests within a common value system. The role of valuation analysts, of those interacting with them and providing information, and of the data and figures that they produce, is framed in terms of this "argumentative" process. An empirical example is given, concerning the assessment of the importance of the water resource management "services rendered" to society by wetlands, in a region close to Paris, France. It is shown how the valuation figures obtained are context-specific, depending on geographical situation but also, and more particularly, the preoccupations of the stakeholders involved and their interactions.

Keywords: complexity, conflict, environment, France, institutions, justification, legitimacy, valuation methodology, water resources

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