Beyond magical thinking

Authored by: Michael Maniates

Routledge Handbook of Global Sustainability Governance

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138048287
eBook ISBN: 9781315170237
Adobe ISBN:


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Achieving transformational environmental governance hinges on the mobilisation of existing populations of the environmentally and socially concerned. Popular faith in the aggregative power of individual acts of conscientious consumption – “magical thinking,” in other words – undercuts prospects for mobilisation; this because of the emergence of the trinity of despair, an interlocking set of assumptions and behaviours that foster cynicism, misanthropy, faith in crisis, and a politics of guilt among those most ripe for political mobilisation. Existing scholarship on the positive and negative spillover effects of eco-living and conscientious consumption, while important, neglects these dynamics. Survey data suggest that the trinity of despair runs deeper than expected, and is a major but surmountable impediment to citizen-led transformation of existing governance regimes.

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