Planetary Boundaries and the Challenge to Governance in the Anthropocene


  • David Chandler Professor of International Relations, Research Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster



This article considers the challenge to governance posed by new Anthropocene discourses of planetary boundaries. The first section introduces the problematic of the Anthropocene as a new geological epoch and also as symptomatic of the end of modernist ontological and epistemological assumptions of the divide between culture and nature. The Anthropocene is thus seen to fundamentally decentre the human as subject and the temporal linearity of Enlightenment progress. The second section analyses the implications of this closure for critical approaches to governance, which increasingly accept and reproduce these ontopolitical assumptions. The tasks of governance thus become transformed, no longer seeking to imagine alternative futures but rather drawing out alternative possibilities that already exist in the present. Governance becomes increasingly an act of affirmation rather than a discourse of change and transformation. The third section expands on this point to consider how contemporary governance approaches articulate the status quo in increasingly radical and enabling ways.


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Academic Paper