The Politics of Sustainability and Development

23 November 2016

Amid concerns about the rise of authoritarian politics on both sides of the Atlantic and worldwide, attention has turned to what alliances, knowledge and organisation are needed to build more sustainable societies.

Political economies in today's world involve multiple sources of power and control, and fragmented authority. Transformations to sustainability, therefore, require a wide mobilization to challenge incumbent power. A new article by Professor Ian Scoones draws on the work of the ESRC STEPS Centre since 2006 to examine these transformations in the light of relationships between politics, sustainability, and development.

Published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, the article, ‘The Politics of Sustainability and Development’, explores sustainability thinking across different traditions, the politics of resources, and the influence of scarcity narratives on research, policy and practice.

According to the article, sustainability transformations can play out under combinations of technology-led, market-led, state-led, and citizen-led processes. They cannot be managed or controlled, but must draw on an unruly politics, involving diverse knowledges and multiple actors.

Diagram showing technology-led, market-led, state-led and citizen-led transformations

In the review, Ian Scoones highlights how politics are articulated through regimes of truth, rule, and accumulation, and how understanding such political processes has implications for institutional and governance responses. He argues that 'the political', and therefore 'governance', must take on new networked forms, rooted in collective action and challenging liberal forms of democracy, markets, and authoritarian regimes.

He also reflects on future research priorities and the methodological stance required for an effective response to the political challenges of sustainability and development. Long-term, place-based and transdisciplinary research will be vital in confronting these challenges.

Read the article for free via the OpenDocs repository