The environmental state and the glass ceiling of transformation

Hausknost, Daniel ORCID: (2020) The environmental state and the glass ceiling of transformation. Environmental Politics, 29 (1). pp. 17-37. ISSN 0964-4016

Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

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What are the capacities of the state to facilitate a comprehensive sustainability transition? It is argued that structural barriers akin to an invisible "glass ceiling" are inhibiting any such transformation. First, the structure of state imperatives does not allow for the addition of an independent sustainability imperative without major contradictions. Second, the imperative of legitimation is identified as a crucial component of the glass ceiling. A distinction is introduced between "lifeworld" and "system" sustainability, showing that the environmental state has created an environmentally sustainable lifeworld, which continues to be predicated on a fundamentally unsustainable reproductive system. While this "decoupling" of lifeworld from system sustainability has alleviated legitimation pressure from the state, a transition to systemic sustainability will require deep changes in the lifeworld. This constitutes a renewed challenge for state legitimation. Some speculations regarding possible futures of the environmental state conclude the article.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council's Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP). Grant ref. ES/M10163/1.
Keywords: Environmental state; transformation; sustainability; decoupling; transition barriers; legitimation
Divisions: Departments > Sozioökonomie > Gesellschaftswandel und Nachhaltigkeit
Version of the Document: Published
Depositing User: Gertraud Novotny
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 08:20
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2020 09:58
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