Value. What something is worth to you. I just finished reading the book The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy by professor of economics Mariana Mazzucato. The book explores how the understanding of what value is and the implications for our daily lives of that understanding has evolved throughout history, how the evolving discourse of what we value has fallen off, with most people blindly accepting economic values as given facts, and with many people saying that they are creating value when they are extracting it.
We know, from the framing of the ecosynomics of abundance, that the cultural lens we use for our agreements focuses on what we value, in outcomes, in developing relationships and capacities, in potential, and in the interweaving of these perceived levels of reality. We also know that much of what we accept in life leads us to low-value traps, to many sets of agreements —agreements fields–that extract value, some that create value, and a few that release potential.
We also observe that there are at least two ways to see these value processes. In exploring Mariana’s focus on how value extractors have appropriated the value-creation term, I realized that the value-process terms of destruction, extraction, creation, and regeneration are slippery, because they can be used to mean multiple things, some of which seem to increase value and others which seem to decrease value.
Value destruction—when a value-giving substance is taken out a system. Its value is no longer accessible. Value destruction can be seen negatively as destroying value in the current system. What was valued is no longer valued. It has become rubbish. Seen positively, new interactions have been generated, which made the old interactions obsolete. Think smart phones as one device replacing five devices (cellphone, voice recorder, camera, PDA, GPS).
Value extraction—when a value-giving substance is shifted from one system to another. Value extraction can be the appropriation of value away from someone else. One group generated the value and another group took it from them. Negative connotation. And, for someone to take on a higher risk in how they use their resources, they expect to receive a greater return for that risk, extracting more of the overall value generated than others. They might also see that they need to protect the value of something, like a forrest, so they take it out of the realm of real estate development. Extraction from one value set to another. A positive connotation for some.
Value creation—when a new value-giving substance is realized, made real, in relationship to one or more systems. Value creation can be the generation of something new that is valued, which is now accessible. Think of the Internet or a new highway, which everyone can now use to do something new. Value creation can also be the imposition of hidden structures of access that extract value. Think of the new highway access, with an imposed toll paid to a private company.
Value regeneration—when a system is able to generate its own value-giving substances. Value regeneration can be seen positively as the capacity of a system to self-generate the resources it needs to survive. Think of partially open ecosystems like rainforests or self-sufficient communities. Self-sufficiency in value regeneration can also be seen negatively, with one group of people excluding others from their self-focused resources, such as systems where money generates money for those who have more than they need, extracting it from those who do not.
Each of these value processes can be seen positively or negatively, depending on your relationship to them. It is not that one is necessarily better than the other, rather it depends on how you relate to them. What you can do is to be clear on the dynamics in each value process and on the perspective you take.