Posted: December 7, 2019 by zombieacademy in Uncategorized
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The West’s response to environmental issues has been restricted by the dominance of neoliberal economics since the 1970s. That led to hyper-individualist, market fundamentalist, incremental and atomistic approaches. By hyper-individualist, I mean a focus on individual action as consumers, switching light bulbs or buying sustainable furniture, rather than promoting political action as engaged citizens. By market fundamentalist, I mean a focus on market mechanisms like the complex, costly and largely useless carbon cap and trade systems, rather than exploring what more government intervention could achieve. By incremental, I mean a focus on celebrating small steps forward such as a company publishing a sustainability report, rather than strategies designed for a speed and scale of change suggested by the science. By atomistic, I mean a focus on seeing climate action as a separate issue from the governance of markets, finance and banking, rather than exploring what kind of economic system could permit or enable sustainability.

This ideology has now influenced the workloads and priorities of academics in most universities, which restricts how we can respond to the climate tragedy. In my own case, I took an unpaid sabbatical, and writing this paper is one of the outcomes of that decision. We no longer have time for the career games of aiming to publish in top-ranked journals to impress our line managers or improve our CV for if we enter the job market. Nor do we have a need for the narrow specialisms that are required to publish in such journals. So, yes, I am suggesting that in order to let oneself evolve in response to the climate tragedy one may have to quit a job – and even a career. However, if one is prepared to do that, then one can engage with an employer and professional community from a new place of confidence.

If staying in academia, I recommend you begin to ask some questions of all that you research and teach. When reading others’ research, I recommend asking: “How might these findings inform efforts for a more massive and urgent pursuit of resilience, relinquishment and restoration in the face of social collapse?” You may find that most of what you read offers little on that question, and, therefore, you no longer wish to engage with it. On one’s own research, I recommend asking: “If I didn’t believe in incremental incorporation of climate concerns into current organisations and systems, what might I want to know more about?” In answering that question, I recommend talking to non-specialists as much as people in your own field, so that you are able to talk more freely and consider all options.


That’d be Jem Bendell.

  1. andrewm says:

    Thanks so much for making this so clear. Is there a paper? I’d like to read it (and you mention something in the post. 🙂

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