Joan Martinez Alier


Joan Martinez Alier (born 1939, Barcelona, Spain) is a Catalan economist, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Economic History and researcher at ICTA at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.[1]

Joan Martinez Alier


Martinez Alier has a Lic. Economics, Universitat de Barcelona (1961), after which he went abroad to escape Francoist Spain, and studied agricultural economics at Oxford University and Stanford.[2] He then received a scholarship to return to Oxford (B.Litt. St Anthony's College, 1967). His PhD was in Economics from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (1976).

He remained as a researcher at St. Anthony's College Oxford into the early 70s (1966–73 and 1984–85), working on land reform, rural unemployment and the capitalist logic of sharecropping in Southern Spain and also conducting research in Cuba (on smallholders in the early years of Castro's Cuba) and in Peru (on the hacienda peasantry). He was visiting professor at the State University of Campinas (Brasil) in 1974, before returning to his home town to join the Department of Economics and Economic History at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain, in 1975. He has also been a visitor at the Free University of Berlin (1980–81), Stanford University and the University of California, Davis, (1988–89), Yale University (1999-2001), and FLACSO Sede-Ecuador (1994–95 and 2007–15).[3]

He directed the CEECEC and EJOLT research projects on ecological economics and political ecology between 2008 and 2015. He is officially retired from AUB, but still professionally active and in 2016, aged in his mid 70s, he received a €2 million Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for a further five-year project, A Global Environmental Justice Movement - The EJAtlas ( In particular, he has made a fundamental contribution to establishing ecological economics as a transdisciplinary field of study devoted to regulating economic activity in a way that promotes human well-being, sustainability, and justice. In several books and articles, he has analysed the relationship between ecological economics and political ecology as well as the role played by environmental justice. Most important is his approach to environmental conflicts and the notion of “ecological unequal trade”. Among his numerous important publications, one of the most influential is the volume The Environmentalism of the Poor (Edward Elgar, 2002), based on the author’s experiences researching in India and Latin America.

He is a founding member and past-president of the International Society for Ecological Economics. He was a member (2000–08) of the European Environment Agency Scientific Committee.[4]


His interests are agrarian studies, ecological economics and political ecology. In the late seventies Martinez Alier became interested in agricultural energetics and the work of Sergei Podolinsky (1850-1891), publishing a text on this with J.M. Naredo in 1982.[5]

He is a practitioner of ecological economics, defining many of its key concepts approaches. He argues, against neoclassical economists, that the economy is not circular, but entropic. Calculations of social metabolic flows of energy and materials need to figure in neoclassical and marxist economics. Energy is not recycled and materials are only partially recycled - and resource extraction and waste disposal manifest themselves in ecological systems. They are visible through the drawing down of physical resources, pollution, and through socio-ecological distribution conflicts. The latter are hastened by an increase in social metabolism and human appropriation of nature. "In environmental struggles, reproduction of human society and of nature’s functions are more important or just as important as fights over the (purported) economic surplus."[6].In recognition of his contribution to innovating economics studies, he was awarded the prestigious Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2017 for his groundbreaking theoretical and applied contribution integrating ecological approaches with developmental and justice-oriented ones. He has been extremely active in the dissemination of research results and in the promotion of environmental justice. The Atlas of Environmental Justice he co-directs is a unique, open-access database on the main ecological conflicts and their cultural expressions, which constitutes a highly useful source for scholars in several disciplines, as well as practitioners in the field. In 2020 he was awarded the Balzan Prize.


  • Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought, GDAE, 2017
  • Balzan Prize for Environmental Challenges: Responses from the Social Sciences and the Humanities. 2020.[7] For the quality of his contributions to the foundation of ecological economics, his path-breaking analysis of the relationships between economies and the environment, his interdisciplinary as well as comparative approach, and his active role in the promotion of environmental justice.

Selected books (in English)Edit

  • 1971: Labourers and Landowners in Southern Spain
  • 1977: Haciendas, Plantations and Collective Farms (Cuba and Peru)
  • 1987: Ecological economics: energy, environment and society
  • 1994: The environment as a luxury good or "too poor to be green"?
  • 1996: Getting down to earth: practical applications of ecological economics (with Robert Costanza and Olman Segura)
  • 1997: Varieties of Environmentalism. Essays North and South (with Ramachandra Guha)
  • 2002: The Environmentalism of the Poor: A study of ecological conflicts and valuation
  • 2007: Rethinking Environmental History: World-Systems History and Global Environmental Change (with Alf Hornborg and John Mc Neill)
  • 2008: Recent Developments in Ecological Economics 2 vols. (with Inge Ropke)
  • 2012: Ecological Economics from the Ground Up (with Hali Healy et al.)
  • 2015: Handbook of Ecological Economics (with Roldan Muradian)

Interviews (in English)Edit

  • Interview with Lorenzo Pellegrini in Development & Change, 2012
  • Ecological Economics, Video Interview at The Montreal Degrowth Conference 2012


  1. ^ "Joan Martinez Alier". Archived from the original on 23 March 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  2. ^ Pellegrini, Lorenzo (2012). "Joan Martinez-Alier". Development and Change. 43: 341–359. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7660.2012.01759.x.
  3. ^ Martinez Alier, Joan. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). University Barcelona. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  4. ^ "International workshop on ecosystem and natural capital accounting". Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  5. ^ Alier, Joan M.; Naredo, Jose M. (1982). "A Marxist Precursor to Energy Economics: Podolinsky". Journal of Peasant Studies. 9 (2): 207–224. doi:10.1080/03066158208438162.
  6. ^ Pellegrini, Lorenzo (2012). "Joan Martinez-Alier". Development and Change. 43: 341–359. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7660.2012.01759.x.
  7. ^ Balzan Prize 2020