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Original Essays | July 22, 2014

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The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had... Continue »
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Against Ecological Sovereignty: Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World (PostHumanities)


Against Ecological Sovereignty: Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World (PostHumanities) Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Against Ecological Sovereignty is a passionate defense of radical ecology that speaks directly to current debates concerning the nature, and dangers, of sovereign power. Engaging the work of Bataille, Arendt, Levinas, Nancy, and Agamben, among others, Mick Smith reconnects the political critique of sovereign power with ecological considerations, arguing that ethical and political responsibilities for the consequences of our actions do not end with those defined as human.

Against Ecological Sovereignty is the first book to turn Agamben’s analysis of sovereignty and biopolitics toward an investigation of ecological concerns. In doing so it exposes limits to that thought, maintaining that the increasingly widespread biopolitical management of human populations has an unrecognized ecological analogue—reducing nature to a “resource” for human projects. Smith contends that a radical ecological politics must resist both the depoliticizing exercise of sovereign power and the pervasive spread of biopolitics in order to reveal new possibilities for creating healthy human and nonhuman communities.

Presenting a stinging critique of human claims to sovereignty over the natural world, Smith proposes an alternative way to conceive of posthumanist ecological communities—one that recognizes the utter singularity of the beings in them.

Book News Annotation:

Smith (philosophy & environmental studies, Queen's U.) argues that too little has been written about the ecological implications of political sovereignty. For that reason, environmentalists are at a disadvantage at challenging the systemic role sovereign political decisions have in defining what is or isn't an ecological crisis. Drawing on political theorists like Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault and Hannah Arendt, Smith lays out a much needed critique of what he calls ecological sovereignty that challenges the biopoliticization of natural resources. He suggests an anarchic approach to ecological politics that rejects limiting politics to constititonal citizenry, insteading opting for a mutualism. He comments on the politics of primitivism, "saving the world," ecological ethics, and risk. He does not offer a blue-print for a future society or even a set of policy suggestions, but an assessment of the political and ethical challenges to responding to ecological crises. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


Links the political critique of sovereign power with ecological concerns

About the Author

Mick Smith is associate professor and Queen’s National Scholar in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Environmental Studies at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. He is author of An Ethics of Place: Radical Ecology, Postmodernity, and Social Theory.

Table of Contents



Introduction: A Grain of Sand

1. Awakening

2. The Sovereignty of Good

3. Primitivism: Anarchy, Politics, and the State of Nature

4. Suspended Animation: Radical Ecology, Sovereign Powers, and Saving the (Natural) World

5. Risks, Responsibilities, and Side Effects: Arendt, Beck, and the Politics of Acting into Nature

6. Articulating Ecological Ethics and Politics

7. Against Ecological Sovereignty

Apologue: In Relation to the Lack of Environmental Policy




Product Details

Smith, Mick
University of Minnesota Press
General Political Science
Politics - General
Environmental Studies-General
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
8.5 x 5.5 x 1.5 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
Humanities » Philosophy » Ethics
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Ecology
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General

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Links the political critique of sovereign power with ecological concerns

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