Inventing the Environmental State: Neoliberal Common Sense and the Limits to Transformation

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The neoliberal nature of the environmental state prevents a transformation to long-term sustainability. Taking the case of Britain, I scrutinise the rhetorical invention of the environmental state by identifying and analysing the commonplaces that informed political arguments for environmental policymaking between 1997–2015. The analysis shows that the rhetoric of the British environmental state is grounded on neoliberal commonplaces, which entails an understanding of environmental problems and solutions that precludes actual transformation. Ultimately, neoliberalism functions as a glass ceiling to radical environmental transformation; a transformative rhetoric informed by commonplaces different to those of neoliberalism is paramount to the institution of a counter-hegemonic ecological paradigm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-114
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number1
Early online date30 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Environmental state
  • neoliberalism
  • rhetorical analysis
  • sustainability
  • transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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