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Environmental Governance through Partnerships

A Discourse Theoretical Study Ay?em Mert, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Stockholm University, Sweden
Transnational partnerships have become mainstream across levels and issues of environmental governance, following their endorsement by the UN in 2002. Despite apparent success, their desirability as a way of governing human interactions with the planet’s ecosystems has not yet been properly investigated. In this revelatory book Ay?em Mert combines post-structuralist discourse theory and ecocriticism to analyse three discourses that have been rooted into the logic of partnerships: privatisation of governance, sustainable development and democratic participation. Ultimately, Mert argues that these discourses help understand both the potential and structural limitations of sustainability partnerships.
Extent: 288 pp
Hardback Price: $130.00 Web: $117.00
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978 1 78254 004 5
Availability: In Stock
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  • Environment
  • Environmental Politics and Policy
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Environmental Politics and Policy
  • Public Policy
Sustainability partnerships were the Type-II outcomes of the 2002 Johannesburg Summit, which promised increased effectiveness in and wider participation to global environmental governance. They have quickly become the main form of collaboration between UN and non-state actors. This groundbreaking book uses the results of quantitative and qualitative research to analyze sustainability partnerships and their role in environmental governance. It focuses on the origins of and the rationale behind the concept of ‘public–private partnership’.

With a combination of post-structuralist discourse theory and interpretative methods such as historical discourse analysis and ecocriticism not previously used in studies on partnership, Ay?em Mert examines three discourses that have been rooted into the logic of partnerships: privatization of governance, sustainable development and democratic participation. Ultimately, Mert argues that these discourses help understand both the potential and structural limitations of sustainability partnerships.

This revolutionary book will be useful to researchers of environmental governance, transnational and global studies, looking for an empirical and analytical interpretation of the topic. Political theorists and philosophers, as well as discourse analysts, will also find the theoretical and methodological perspectives to be of interest.


‘Taking sustainable development as its central substantive area of concern, this important new book offers a compelling portrait of the global partnership regime in all its richness and complexity, revealing its logics of emergence and operation. Mert demonstrates the analytical and critical power of an antiessentialist discourse theoretical approach to the study of partnerships, examining a number of crucial mediating discourses drawn from economics, democratic theory and ecology. Her work embodies what all such studies aspire to be: an ontological and not merely an ontical inquiry. The novel concepts developed – particularly “sedimentation of conflict”– makes this a potentially transformative study.’
– Jason Glynos, University of Essex, UK

‘Mert’s book offers a highly provocative treatment of public–private collaboration for sustainability. It follows the discourses of privatization, participation and sustainable development through the language and practices of the partnerships adopted at the World Summit for Sustainable Development. As such, the study opens a fresh inquiry on the discursive battles that surround new forms of environmental governance and their fit with broader norms of representation and effectiveness.’
– Liliana B. Andonova, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

‘In sum, this volume is an important and timely step forward in our understanding of the emergence and legitimacy of public–private partnerships for sustainable development. The book’s contribution is both theoretically refreshing, innovative and empirically well-grounded in a deep analysis of major global discourses. Given the still ongoing discussions on multisectoral partnerships in the UN system, this book offers important new perspectives on this partnership idea that will be valuable for both political theorists and policy practitioners.’
– From the foreword by Frank Biermann
Contents: Acknowledgements PART I Setting the Scene 1. Introduction 2. Methodological Reflections: Studying Change within Continuity 3. Theoretical Reflections: Discourses and Institutions after Nature 4. Partnerships as Sedimented Discourses: The Emergence of Type-II Outcomes PART II Analysing the Mediating Discourses 5. Partnerships and the Discourse of Privatization 6. Partnerships and the Discourse of Sustainable Development 7. Partnerships and the Discourse of Participation 8. Conclusions Index