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The Political Economy of Addressing the Climate Crisis in the Earth System: Undermining Perverse Resilience

Phelan, Liam, Ann Henderson-Sellers, Ros Taplin. 2012. The Political Economy of Addressing the Climate Crisis in the Earth System: Undermining Perverse Resilience. New Political Economy, . In press

Abstract

The Earth system is a complex adaptive system, characterised by non-linear change and with significant capacity for surprise. In times of systemic crisis, such as dangerous anthropogenic climate change, perverse resilience (for example the structural power of fossil fuel interests in the global economy) can threaten overall Earth system stability. Critical political economic analysis recognises climate change as a threat with significant political economic characteristics and implications.

However, key dimensions of climate change as a globally coherent phenomenon, including the important implications of Earth system dynamism and non-linear change, can remain unrecognised, mischaracterised or underestimated. In contrast, resilience approaches describe social-ecological systems but neglect the significance of norms and power relations in human societies. This article builds theory by linking key concepts – hegemony and resilience – from neo-Gramscian political economic analysis and resilience approaches to social-ecological systems. Our objective is to generate a newconceptual framework to improve understanding of the role of politics in social-ecological systems. We use climate change and its mitigation to demonstrate the new framework’s potential.

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