The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability: Human Flourishing in a Climate-Changed, Carbon Constrained World

Front Cover
OUP Oxford, Feb 23, 2012 - Political Science - 328 pages
Going against both the naive techno-optimism of 'greening business as usual' and a resurgent 'catastrophism' within green thinking and politics, The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability offers an analysis of the causes of unsustainability and diminished human flourishing. It makes a case for seeing that it is profound and deepening unsustainability and growing injustice that characterizes the modern world. The books locates the causes of unsustainability in dominant capitalist modes of production, debt-based consumerism, and the imperative for orthodox economic growth. It suggests that valuable insights into the causes of and alternatives to unsustainability can be found in a critical embracing of human vulnerability and dependency as both constitutive and ineliminable aspects of what it means to be human. Rather than seeing invulnerability as the appropriate response, the book defends resilience, the ability to 'cope with' rather than 'solve' vulnerability, as a more productive strategy. The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability offers a trenchant critique of the dominant neoclassical economic groupthink, which the book argues must be seen not as some value-neutral form of 'expert knowledge' but as a thoroughly ideological 'common sense' that has corrupted and limited creative ways of thinking about and through our current predicament. It offers a green political economic alternative which replaces economic growth with economic security, and views economic growth as having done its work in the minority, affluent world, which should now focus on human flourishing and lowering socio-economic inequality and fostering solidarity as part of that new re-orientation of public policy. Complementing this green political economy, the book outlines and develops an account of 'green republicanism', which represents an innovative and original contribution to debates on the political responses to the crises and opportunities of global unsustainability. The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability draws widely from a range of disciplines and thinkers to produce a highly relevant, timely, and provocatively original statement on the human predicament in the twenty-first century.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability
2 Vulnerability
3 Resilience Transition and Creative Adaptability
Empire and Emperors with No Clothes
Sufficiency and Security
Solidarity and Sharing
7 Greening Civic Republicanism I
A Green Republican Economy Sustainability Service and Agonistic Politics
Dissident Thinking in Turbulent Times

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

John Barry has written or edited numerous books, articles and book chapters on green political theory, the political economy of unsustainability, the green movement, the politics, economics and policy of the transition to a low carbon economy, republicanism and green politics, eco-feminism, Irish and Northern Irish politics and culture, interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability research, Q methodology and academic activism. He is a former co-chair of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, a sitting Green Party Councillor, a founding member of Holywood Transition Town, a director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (Ireland), and co-founder of two think tanks, Green House and the Centre for Progressive Economics. He is Reader in Politics in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy and Associate Director of the Institute for a Sustainable World, both at Queen's University Belfast. He is winner of the PSA Mackenzie Prize for best politics book of 1999.

Bibliographic information