Rendering climate change governable: From biopower to advanced liberal government?

A. Oels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article generates a theoretical framework for analysing the politics of climate change on the basis of Michel Foucault's concept of governmentality. Foucault does not limit the exercise of power to sovereignty, but introduces discipline, biopower, liberal and advanced liberal government as alternative configurations of state and power. The article argues that the ways in which climate change is rendered a governable entity are best understood before the background of a shift from biopower to advanced liberal government. It will be argued that climate change was first rendered governable by biopower, which justified global management of spaceship Earth in the name of the survival of life on Earth. Since the mid-1990s, climate change has been captured by advanced liberal government, which articulates climate change as an economic issue that requires market-based solutions to facilitate cost-effective technological solutions. A governmentality analysis asks which visibilities, fields of knowledge, practices and identities this ‘global climate regime’ is actually producing, rather than assuming that what it does or is supposed to do is known. In that way, the ways in which programme failure has already been built into the very formation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol can be identified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185 - 207
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy & Planning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


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