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Beyond Sovereign Territory

The Space of Ecopolitics

1996
Author:

Thom Kuehls

Beyond Sovereign Territory

An ecological critique of political thought that insists on the centrality of ethics.

How should we think about politics in a world where ecological problems-from the deforestation of the Amazon to acid rain-transcend national boundaries? This is the timely and important question addressed by Thom Kuehls in Beyond Sovereign Territory. Contending that the sovereign territorial state is not adequate to contain or describe the boundaries of ecopolitics, the author reorients our thinking about government, nature, and politics.

Thom Kuehls, an eco-theorist of transnational flux, finds deep inspiration in the principle of biodiversity, which he deftly extends to political theory and international relations by infiltrating political and social spaces; in the process, he smoothly renders their boundaries indeterminate and their master-concepts-sovereignty and humanity-unstable. A provocative addition to the project of reformulating international studies, Beyond Sovereign Territory multiplies the possibilities of ecological theories and practices.

William Corlett, Bates College

How should we think about politics in a world where ecological problems-from the deforestation of the Amazon to acid rain-transcend national boundaries? This is the timely and important question addressed by Thom Kuehls in Beyond Sovereign Territory. Contending that the sovereign territorial state is not adequate to contain or describe the boundaries of ecopolitics, the author reorients our thinking about government, nature, and politics.

Kuehls argues that changes in technology and the scope of governmental aims have rendered conventional ecological and internationalist aims anachronistic-and ultimately ineffective-in the face of impending environmental collapse. He questions the process by which land is transformed into an object of sovereignty-into “territory”-demonstrating how representations of political space that focus on territorial sovereignty fail to come to terms with much of what is involved in ecopolitics.

Engaging social and political theory texts from such diverse thinkers as Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, Kuehls moves through the fields of ecopolitical thought and international relations on his way to articulating an ecological politics that exceeds the space of the sovereign territorial state. Throughout, Beyond Sovereign Territory juxtaposes traditional conceptualizations of nature with unorthodox-and enlightening-alternatives. Kuehls articulates a governing “eco-ethic,” what he calls an “ethics of care,” one that insists on the centrality of ethics to the space in which ecopolitics exists. Ultimately, Kuehls critiques an orientation that privileges a certain utilitarian relationship between humans and nonhuman nature, one in which the earth is largely interpreted as given to humans. Deeply humanistic and challenging conventional wisdom, Beyond Sovereign Territory will be of interest to readers of environmental politics, geography, international politics, and political theory.

Beyond Sovereign Territory

Thom Kuehls is an assistant professor at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where he teaches political theory.

Beyond Sovereign Territory

Thom Kuehls, an eco-theorist of transnational flux, finds deep inspiration in the principle of biodiversity, which he deftly extends to political theory and international relations by infiltrating political and social spaces; in the process, he smoothly renders their boundaries indeterminate and their master-concepts-sovereignty and humanity-unstable. A provocative addition to the project of reformulating international studies, Beyond Sovereign Territory multiplies the possibilities of ecological theories and practices.

William Corlett, Bates College

Beyond Sovereign Territory is an ambitious book which covers much ground clearly and concisely. Kuehl's originality lies in his attempt to outline a new ecological ethic.

Millennium

A useful, challenging text that forces us to acknowledge the shifting character of sovereign territory in an ecologically interdependent world.

American Political Science Review