Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change

Researching climate change and community in neoliberal contexts: an emerging critical approach

Journal Article

In a 2011 contribution to this journal, Walker examined the ways that community is routinely employed in carbon governance, suggesting the need for more critical approaches. Here, we characterize an emerging, critical approach to researching climate change and community in neoliberal contexts, focusing attention principally on the global north, where this body of research has emerged. This work recognizes communities as sites of contestation, difference, tension, and distinction, in which action on climate change can be designed to meet a range of political and public ends. It aims to uncover the political and social context for community action on climate change, to be alert to the power relations inside and outside of communities, and to the context of neoliberalism, including individualism, the will to quantify, and competition. Furthermore, research in this space is committed to understanding both the lived experience of the messy empirical worlds we encounter, and the potential agency coalescing in community responses to climate change. Much of the work to date, discussed here, has focused on communities working on climate change mitigation in the global north, in which the idea of community as a space for governance is gaining traction. We also comment on the positioning of these arguments in the context of long‐standing debates in the fields of ‘community‐based’ development, natural resource management, and adaptation in the global South. This discussion establishes a foundation from which to progress learning across fields and geopolitical boundaries, furthering critical thinking on ‘community.’ WIREs Clim Change 2017, 8:e463. doi: 10.1002/wcc.463

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