Governing Sustainable Subjects: Environmentality in Polity, Economy and Civil Society
“Sustainability” is a broad concept that is used to guide a diverse range of government policies, corporate governance practices, and environmental movements; promote ethical and ‘green’ consumer products; and to transform existing production and consumption practices, to name but a few. While these various manifestations of sustainability differ from one another, they appear to be linked by a shared narrative. In this thesis, I utilise Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis to investigate if and why sustainability discourses share a common narrative. I focus on the relationship between the management of the population and the supposed boundaries between the state, market, and civil society by exploring the emergence of the terms “environmental sustainability” and “sustainable consumption” within the practices and narratives of governance and self-regulation. By combining Slavoj Zizek’s notion of ideology with Timothy W. Luke’s concept of environmentality, and Michel Foucault’s conceptions of governmentality and power, I argue that the governmentalisation of sustainability is the common thread that runs through the three narratives that I analyse. More specifically, I argue that quotidian sustainability narratives have the effect of regulating human conduct through largely apolitical and technical understandings of environmental problems, disciplinary practices, and practices of the self that appear to remove risk from the act of consumption and everyday life.