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Governing through the climate: climate change, the anthropocene, and global governmentality

Hamilton, Scott (2017) Governing through the climate: climate change, the anthropocene, and global governmentality. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.wlz69v0vrbfx

Abstract

The concept of anthropogenic climate change is now understood in the discipline of International Relations (IR) as an urgent environmental problem enveloping the globe. It underlies recent claims that humanity’s impact on the Earth’s natural systems is so consequential that a new geologic epoch has begun: The Anthropocene, or the ‘human age’. Yet, IR’s increasing engagement and use of these scientific concepts raises significant questions the discipline has yet to address. For instance, if global climate change appeared in international politics only as recently as the late-1980s, what spurred this sudden emergence? If the Anthropocene appeared only after 2000, then how does this new concept affect the way we now think about global politics, the Earth, and even ourselves? This thesis answers these questions by arguing that the concepts of global climate change and the Anthropocene are neither immutable nor universal scientific truths or natural objects. Rather, they emerged when technological advances in nuclear physics and models tracing bomb radiocarbon intersected with the ways states govern their territories and subjects. The global nature or ‘climatic globality’ of these concepts, therefore, is a manner of conducting and steering human conduct and action by establishing the boundaries of subjectivity when they are thought. This is what Michel Foucault called governmentality. It is demonstrated in this thesis through a genealogical tracing of climate change in IR, focusing on how nuclear sciences, computational modelling technologies, and regimes of international governance, overlapped to form the climatic globality IR now takes for granted. Combining genealogy with the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, a new form of global governmentality becomes evident. Through a technological and metaphysical subjectivism with the carbon atom as its substrate, the human self now asserts itself from atomic to global scales, as the maker, master, and steward, of the Earth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Scott Tyler Hamilton
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Neumann, Iver
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3543

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