Distorted imaginaries in a world of crisis : a world-ecological analysis of the imaginaries at the root of United Nations’ climate responses

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Title: Distorted imaginaries in a world of crisis : a world-ecological analysis of the imaginaries at the root of United Nations’ climate responses
Author: Hokkanen, Saana
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202012285563
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Yhteiskunnallisen muutoksen maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Society and Change
Magisterprogrammet för samhälle i förändring
Specialisation: Kehitysmaatutkimus
Development Studies
Abstract: The earth and all of its inhabitants are currently on a trajectory of multiple cascading global crises, which threaten the existence of all beings and the complex relations, which enable the functioning of all societies. In addition to posing a physical threat to human and non-human existence, the climate emergency also poses a conceptual and an ontological challenge. Therefore, this thesis focuses on the institutionalized and globalized ontological assumptions (or imaginaries) at the core of the current world-system (/ecology) characterized by capitalism. One of the main arguments in this thesis is that the perpetuation of the core imaginaries (namely those of Society and Nature’s dualism, mechanistic image of the world and hierarchical existence) at the root of current global structures, as well as the international climate responses, has led to inadequate and misinformed responses to the emergency. The methodological approach of this thesis is an incorporated synchronic and diachronic analysis which combines the world-ecological theory with the analytical tool of social imaginaries (referring to representations of individual and social existence; the ‘truths’ according to which people live and the shared understandings of ‘what is’ and ‘how it is’). The data consists of United Nations’ policy documents, which include the Paris climate agreement, the Katowice Climate package and reports from related Conference of the Parties (COP –meetings). This thesis shows how the dominant climate responses of the UN (as the main international climate actor), are built on and framed by the imaginaries at the root of capitalism as a world-system, thus continuing the global and institutional enactment of the distorted imaginaries powering the extractive, othering and exploitative practices which constitute the foundation of the capitalist world-ecology. By examining the current responses to the climate emergency within the wider world-ecological context, this thesis takes part in the increasing critical scholarly work tackling concurrent global crises from radical, alternative and multidisciplinary perspectives. It also offers a new contribution for developing the world-ecological theory further, by incorporating a new analytical tool of social imaginaries, which equips the theory better in studying complex agency within the existing conversation. This thesis is thus a new contribution to the world-ecological conversation, which with the notion of all beings being part of the same co-constitutive existence, can be extremely useful in mapping out the currently dominant global practices and structures, and the (onto)logics at the foundation of these, while simultaneously addressing the a-symmetrical psycho-social aspects of life and environment-making.
Subject: World-Ecology
Climate Emergency
United Nations
Climate Change
Climate Crisis
Climate Policy
political ontology
political ecology

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