The Anthropocene Debate and Political Science: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Anthropocene Debate and Political Science

1st Edition

Edited by Thomas Hickmann, Lena Partzsch, Philipp Pattberg, Sabine Weiland


278 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Anthropocene has become an environmental buzzword. It denotes a new geological epoch that is human‐dominated. As mounting scientific evidence reveals, humankind has fundamentally altered atmospheric, geological, hydrological, biospheric, and other Earth system processes to an extent that the risk of an irreversible system change emerges. Human societies must therefore change direction and navigate away from critical tipping points in the various ecosystems of our planet. This hypothesis has kicked off a debate not only on the geoscientific definition of the Anthropocene era, but increasingly also in the social sciences. However, the specific contribution of the social sciences disciplines and in particular that of political science still needs to be fully established.

This edited volume analyzes, from a political science perspective, the wider social dynamics underlying the ecological and geological changes, as well as their implications for governance and politics in the Anthropocene. The focus is on two questions: (1) What is the contribution of political science to the Anthropocene debate, e.g. in terms of identified problems, answers, and solutions? (2) What are the conceptual and practical implications of the Anthropocene debate for the discipline of political science?

Overall, this book contributes to the Anthropocene debate by providing novel theoretical and conceptual accounts of the Anthropocene, engaging with contemporary politics and policy-making in the Anthropocene, and offering a critical reflection on the Anthropocene debate as such. The volume will be of great interest to students and scholars of political science, global environmental politics and governance, and sustainable development.


"This remarkable collection very nicely combines conceptual, political and critical perspectives on the Anthropocene. All articles show that political science can contribute to a better understanding of the Anthropocene, but also that political science has to evolve in order to take up the challenges we face in this new era." -- Markus Lederer, Chair of International Relations, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany

"Can a geological epoch have politics? The Anthropocene Debate and Political Science invites us to takes this question seriously and to bring political analysis into the center of contemporary environmental debates. A timely and innovative investigation into the political life of the Anthropocene." -- Eva Lövbrand, Department of Thematic Studies: Environmental Change, Linköping University, Sweden

"The Anthropocene has conquered most public and scholarly debates on the human-nature nexus – and has often been greeted without deeper reflection about the term’s social and political implications. This superb and innovative volume addresses this gap and brings political science into a timely and much-needed dialogue with the Anthropocene concept." -- Fariborz Zelli, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

Notes on Contributors


1. Introduction: A Political Science Perspective on the Anthropocene

Thomas Hickmann, Lena Partzsch, Philipp Pattberg and Sabine Weiland

I Theories and Concepts

2. A Natural History for the 21st century: Rethinking the Anthropocene Narrative with Arendt and Adorno

Maike Weißpflug

3. Disentangling Descriptions and Responses to the Anthropocene: Norms and Implications of Scientific Representations of the Earth System

Johannes Lundershausen

4. The Anthropocene and Governance: Critical Reflections on Conceptual Relations

Basil Bornemann

5. International Theory in the Anthropocene: Moving beyond Species, State, and Governance

Franziska Müller

II Governance and Practices

6. Security Studies and the Discourse on the Anthropocene: Shortcomings, Challenges, and Opportunities

Judith Nora Hardt

7. Global Climate Governance as Boundary Object: Making the Meaning of the Anthropocene

Lukas Hermwille

8. From ‘Talking the Talk" to "Walking the Walk"? Multi-Level Global Governance of the Anthropocene in Indonesia

Chris Höhne

9. Agricultural Governance in the Anthropocene: A Research Agenda

Sandra Schwindenhammer

III Critical Perspectives and Implications

10. Sustainability Impact Assessment of Land Use Changes in the Anthropocene

Till Hermanns and Qirui Li

11. The Nuclear Legacy in the Anthropocene: Interrelations between Nature, Technology, and Society

Dörte Themann and Achim Brunnengräber

12. Worlds Apart? The Global South and the Anthropocene

Jens Marquardt

13. The Anthropocene Concept as a Wake-Up Call for Reforming Democracy

Jörg Tremmel

14. Conclusions: Towards a ‘Deep Debate’ on the Anthropocene

Thomas Hickmann, Lena Partzsch, Philipp Pattberg and Sabine Weiland


About the Editors

Thomas Hickmann is a Post-Doctoral Researcher and Lecturer at the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences of the University of Potsdam in Germany.

Lena Partzsch is a Professor of Environmental and Development Policy at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

Philipp Pattberg is a Professor of Transnational Environmental Governance and Policy at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

Sabine Weiland is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Lille Catholic University, affiliated with the European School of Political and Social Sciences (ESPOL) in France.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Global Environmental Governance

Global environmental governance has been a prime concern of policy-makers since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. Yet, despite more than 900 multi-lateral environmental treaties coming into force over the past 40 years and numerous public-private and private initiatives to mitigate global change, human-induced environmental degradation is reaching alarming levels. Scientists see compelling evidence that the entire earth system now operates well outside safe boundaries and at rates that accelerate. According to a recent scientific assessment organized by the international Earth System Governance Project (ESGP), human societies must change course and steer away from critical tipping points that might lead to rapid and irreversible change, while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for all. The urgent challenge from a social science perspective is how to organize the co-evolution of societies and their surrounding environment, in other words, how to develop effective and equitable governance solutions for today’s global problems.

Against this background, the Routledge Research in Global Environmental Governance series delivers cutting-edge research on the most vibrant and relevant themes within the academic field of global environmental governance. In more detail, the areas of interest of global environmental governance research constitute:

The overall institutional and organizational structure of Global Environmental Governance

  • The core actors, their interests and motives
  • New governance instruments and approaches, including public-private partnerships; market-based governance
  • Questions of governance effectiveness, democratic legitimacy, accountability and transparency in/of Global Environmental Governance
  • Normative underpinnings and implications of Global Environmental Governance, including considerations of equity, access, fairness and justice
  • Adapting the overall global governance landscape to new challenges, including ecological and social tipping points
  • Methodological questions on how to better integrate governance research and the more quantitative modelling and scenario communities

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
NATURE / Ecology
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy