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The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability: Human Flourishing in a Climate-Changed, Carbon Constrained World

By: John Barry

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Feb 2012 | #195018 | ISBN-13: 9780199695393
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NHBS Price: £55.00 $72/€62 approx

About this book

Going against both the naive techno-optimism of 'greening business as usual' and a resurgent 'catastrophism' within green thinking and politics, "The Politics of Unsustainability" offers an analysis of the causes of unsustainability and diminished human flourishing. It makes a case for seeing that it is profound and deepening unsustainability and growing injustice that characterises the modern world, and that therefore the focus of green or other progressive thinking should shift from its current framing in terms of 'sustainability', 'sustainable development', and 'theories of justice'.

The book locates the causes of unsustainability in dominant capitalist modes of production, debt-based consumer culture, the imperative for orthodox economic growth, and the dominant ideology of neo-classical economics. At the level of developing a progressive and critical theoretical understanding of unsustainability, it argues for the importance of integrating vulnerability, which has been largely neglected by both mainstream western political theory and analyses of the current global ecological crisis. It suggests that valuable insights into the causes of and alternatives to unsustainability can be found in a critical embracing of human vulnerability and dependency as both constitutive and ineliminable aspects of what it means to be human. Rather than seeing invulnerability as the appropriate response, the book defends resilience, and the ability to 'cope with' rather than 'solve' vulnerability, as more productive.

"The Politics of Unsustainability" offers a trenchant critique of the dominant neo-classical economic groupthink, which the book argues must be seen not as some value neutral form of 'expert knowledge' but as a thoroughly ideological 'commonsense' that has corrupted and limited creative ways of thinking about and through our current predicament. It offers a green political economic alternative which replaces economic growth with economic security, and views economic growth as having done its work in the minority, affluent world, which should now focus on human flourishing and lowering socio-economic equality and fostering solidarity as part of that new re-orientation of public policy.

Complementing this green political economy, "The Politics of Unsustainability" outlines and develops an account of 'green republicanism', which represents an innovative and original contribution to debates on the political responses to the crises and opportunities that constitute global unsustainability. "The Politics of Unsustainability" draws widely from a range of disciplines and thinkers, from cultural critic Susan Sontag to the critical theory of the Frankfurt school, contemporary debates in green political thinking, and the latest thinking in heterodox and green economics, to produce a highly relevant, timely and provocatively original statement on the human predicament in the 21st century.


Preface and Acknowledgements

1: Introduction
2: Vulnerability
3: Resilience, Transition and Creative Adaptability
4: A critique of neo-classical economics as a regime of 'truth': empire and emperors with no clothes
5: Green Political Economy I: Sufficiency and Security
6: Green Political Economy II: Solidarity and Sharing
7: Greening Civic Republicanism I
8: Greening Civic Republicanism II: Sustainability Service, a Green Republican Economy and Agonistic Politics
9: Conclusion: Dissident thinking in Turbulent Times

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John Barry has written or edited numerous books, articles and book chapters on green political theory, the political economy of unsustainability, the green movement, the politics, economics and policy of the transition to a low carbon economy, republicanism and green politics, eco-feminism, Irish and Northern Irish politics and culture, interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability research, Q methodology and academic activism. He is a former co-chair of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, a sitting Green Party Councillor, a founding member of Holywood Transition Town, a director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (Ireland), and co-founder of two think tanks, Green House and the Centre for Progressive Economics. He is Reader in Politics in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy and Associate Director of the Institute for a Sustainable World, both at Queen's University Belfast. He is winner of the PSA Mackenzie Prize for best politics book of 1999.

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