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From state to system: financialization and the water-energy-food-climate nexus

Schmidt, Jeremy J.; Matthews, Nathanial

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Nathanial Matthews


The water-energy-food-climate nexus has risen rapidly in global water governance over the past decade. This article examines the role of global financial networks in articulating the nexus and in connecting it to sustainability programs. It provides new insights into critical engagements with the nexus that, to date, have focused predominantly on water security and governance. The article examines how global financial networks conceptualized and concretized the nexus towards two ends: First, the nexus was used to effect the transition from state-oriented development models to financialized approaches of water development and sustainability. Here, the nexus was formulated in critique of, and as a solution to, the previously dominant approach to water development: integrated water resources management (IWRM). Second, the nexus was deployed to connect water, energy, food, and climate to the global economy in terms of complex systems. The identification of risks to the resilience of environmental and economic systems provided a new form of integration across the supply chains affected by the governance and security of water, energy, food, and climate. In both cases, the nexus mobilizes technologies of global finance, such as credit-risk ratings, to construct and defend new strategies for governing water security and to enable sub-sovereign actors, such as municipalities, to be incorporated into the global economy. The paper concludes that alignments of the nexus with sustainability programs, and the Sustainable Development Goals, must be reconsidered in view of the constraints posed by financial orientations towards the risks and resilience of economic and environmental systems.


Schmidt, J. J., & Matthews, N. (2018). From state to system: financialization and the water-energy-food-climate nexus. Geoforum, 91, 151-159.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 1, 2018
Online Publication Date Mar 9, 2018
Publication Date May 1, 2018
Deposit Date Mar 2, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 9, 2020
Journal Geoforum
Print ISSN 0016-7185
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 91
Pages 151-159


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