The Normative Orders of the Anthropocene

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Until a few years ago, environmental politics was dominated by a narrative which portrayed the three policy goals of economic growth, participation in environmental politics, and environmental protection as simultaneously attainable. Credits for naming and providing the first building blocks of this compelling and long-lasting narrative go to Gro Harlem Brundtland and her colleagues, who authored the report Our Common Future. 1 In the aftermath of the report, it became apparent that the chosen expression for this new narrative–“sustainable development”–pointed to a placeholder for something desirable, an aspiration, rather than a theory of socioecological transformation. Momentum had been gathered around a convenient formula which was sufficiently vague to be interpreted in a number of different ways and could thus promise both development to those states which had been left behind in their quest for progress and environmental protection to anyone worrying that the developing states’ march toward Western affluence could be environmentally destructive. Albeit initially contested, in the late ‘90s sustainable development emerged as the hegemonic normative order of environmentalism. It is first and foremost a complex narrative about what causes environmental degradation and how it could be managed and solved. This narrative is, in turn, underpinned by a set of well-defined normative presuppositions which together shape our understanding of which actors and which institutions are responsible for environmental protection. Sustainable development is a distinctively anthropocentric concept and does not eschew capitalism. Along …
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNavigating Normative Orders: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
EditorsMatthias Kettemann
Place of PublicationFrankfurt / New York
PublisherCampus Verlag
ISBN (Print)359351298X
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

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