materialism, posthumanism and the climate policy assemblage

Re-assembling climate change policy: materialism, posthumanism and the policy assemblage

Nick J Fox & Pam Alldred
Abstract: National and international policy-makers have addressed threats to environmental sustainability from climate change and other environmental degradation for over 30 years. However, it is questionable whether current policies are socially, politically, economically and scientifically capable of adequately resolving these threats to the planet and living organisms.
In this paper we theorise and develop the concept of a ‘policy assemblage’ from within a new materialist ontology, to interrogate critically four policy perspectives on climate change: ‘liberal environmentalism’; the United Nations policy statements on sustainable development; ‘green capitalism’ (also known as ‘climate capitalism’) and finally ‘no-growth economics’.
A materialist analysis of interactions between climate change and policies enables us to establish what each policy can do, what it ignores or omits, and consequently its adequacy to address environmental sustainability in the face of climate change. None, we conclude, is adequate or appropriate to address climate change successfully. We then use this conceptual tool to establish a ‘posthuman’ policy on climate change.
Humans, from this perspective, are part of the environment, not separate from or in opposition to it, but possess unique capacities that we suggest are now necessary to address climate change. This ontology supplies the starting point from which to establish sociologically a scientifically, socially, and politically adequate posthuman climate change policy. We offer suggestions for the constituent elements of such a policy.
“We have sought to develop and demonstrate how the concept of the ‘policy assemblage’ can provide the foundation for a methodology to explore the material interactions that occur between an event such as climate change and a policy that seeks to address it. This interaction occurs both during policy development (where a policy must have a capacity to discern the material affects within the event), and during implementation (when the affects in the policy must be capable of effectively influencing the event in the desire direction. A materialist approach to policy, we would argue, supplies an innovative approach to policy analysis whose utility extends beyond the specific area of climate change, to social, political or natural world problems.”

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