Authored by: Gabriela Valdivia

The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138794337
eBook ISBN: 9781315759289
Adobe ISBN: 9781317638711


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“Eco-governmentality” is a Foucaultian-inspired power analytic that political ecologists use to examine nature–society relationships. Since its early days, political ecologists have used Marxist-inspired critique to explain environmental domination and oppression (Watts 1983; Blaikie and Brookfield 1987; Hecht and Cockburn 2010; Peluso 1992). As Foucault’s work became more broadly accessible and translated into English in the 1990s, it challenged some aspects of how political ecologists thought about history, change, and power (Bryant 1998). In some respects, Foucault’s analytics parallel Marxist critiques of power, for example, like historical materialism, Foucault takes social practices as transitory and intellectual formations as connected with power and social relations. Things we consider universal, contends Foucault, are the result of very precise historical changes. In other respects, Foucault deviates from Marxist thought, moving away from “modes of production” as the site of social critique and towards “modes of information” (Poster 1984): how power works to produce structures of domination (and resistance) in modern society. His aim was to see power everywhere and in everything, not only in economic activity, and to investigate the microphysics of power rather than focusing on the macro-perspective of the state, or on class struggle as the venue for social change (Foucault 1980b). Doing so, Foucault argued, enabled recognizing the historical contingency of taken-for-granted concepts (e.g., madness, sickness, sexuality, class); the role of social practices in truth regimes; and how authorities and institutions that manage, rule, and control social life are socially produced.

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