Published 25 September 2017
SEI’s Co-Director David Schlosberg and Romand Coles from Australian Catholic University (ACU) have been awarded the 2017 Contemporary Political Theory Prize for their article ‘The new environmentalism of everyday life: Sustainability, material flows, and movements.’
The Prize by Contemporary Political Theory (a Palgrave MacMillan journal) is awarded annually for a journal article which has contributed to the rethinking of political theory within contemporary global politics. Using the theoretical framework of Sustainable Materialism, Schlosberg and Coles’ article explores the recent developments in environmental activism surrounding food justice and energy movements.
The judges’ citation was as follows:
In this timely, suggestive, and well-researched article, David Schlosberg and Romand Coles articulate a conceptual framework of “sustainable materialism” that links a diverse range of movements and initiatives. Unlike the classic “post-materialist” view, the framework of sustainable materialism reveals political commonalities between groups focused on disparate concerns: crafting and DIY technologies, food justice, and alternative energy. Schlosberg and Coles’ keen analytic vision and deft, lucid writing enable them to mobilize a variety of theoretical tools (including new materialist scholarship) for understanding the political theoretical import of these movements. Particularly valuable is the authors’ analysis of the specific forms of political practice that these groups represent. These practices not only challenge current configurations of power, but (in the authors’ words) “replace” them, as activists create alternative material flows through which daily needs are provisioned. Schlosberg and Coles’ article illuminates these forms of activism and provides resources for their continued political analysis.
This article analyzes recent developments in environmental activism, in particular movements focused on reconfiguring material flows. The desire for sustainability has spawned an interest in changing the material relationship between humans, other beings, and the non-human realm. No longer willing to take part in unsustainable practices and institutions, and not satisfied with purely individualistic and consumer responses, a growing focus of environmental movement groups is on restructuring everyday practices of circulation, for example, on sustainable food, renewable energy, and making. The shift to a more sustainable materialism is examined using three frameworks: a move beyond an individualist and value-focused notion of post-materialism, into a focus on collective practices and institutions for the provision of the basic needs of everyday life; Foucault’s conceptions of governmentality and biopolitics, which articulate modes of power around the circulation of things, information, and individuals; and a new ethos around vibrant and sustainable materialism with an explicit recognition of human immersion in non-human natural systems. These frames allow us to see and interpret common themes across numerous, seemingly disparate initiatives focused on replacing unsustainable practices and forging alternative flows.
To access the journal article, click here.
David Schlosberg is a Professor of Environmental Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute.
Professor Romand Coles is a scholar-activist who works at the intersections of continental and critical philosophy, radical democratic theory, and various modes of political organizing and activism.