Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Nature State

The latest English Historical Review has a review by Karen Jones of The Nature State: Rethinking the History of Conservation, edited by Wilko Graf von Hardenberg, Matthew Kelly, Claudia Leal and Emily Wakild (Routledge, 2017). Jones writes:
Building on the work of David Blackbourn, James Scott, Adam Rome, Paul Sutter, and Frank Zelko, the present volume asks us to take a fresh look at the mechanics of power and governmental activity in matters of conservationist enquiry, taking in ideas about global networks, modernity, localism and the politics of negotiation. Implicit here are two concepts: firstly, a challenge to the idea of American hegemony in leading the world in conservation thinking and, secondly, a sense that in embarking on various kinds of environmental governance, state organs were able to propagate their influence and reach. Here the book reveals a foundational tension, arguing for the ‘irregular but near-universal character of the nature state’ (p. 9), while also pointing to the way in which different geographies, constituencies and structures created a site-specific patchwork polity marked by formal and informal demonstrations of authority.
... the book is provocatively, but somewhat deceptively titled. In fact, in the story of environmental resources and political capital set out here across diverse geographies, we find not one state but many, sometimes redoubtable, sometimes hamstrung, and always complicated.

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