Critical theory as a critique of unsustainability: ‘damaged life’ in the anthropocene

Delanty, Gerard (2020) Critical theory as a critique of unsustainability: ‘damaged life’ in the anthropocene. Estudios Públicos, 159. pp. 7-37. ISSN 0716-1115

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The article seeks to situate the notion of sustainability within the framework of critical theory. It shows that sustainability has normative significance for contemporary society and that contrary to many conceptions and practices of sustainability, it has latent and critical potential. The notion of critical sustainability is proposed as a post-corporate cultural model and as an alternative to the neo-liberal conception of sustainability as well as to definitions that see it only in terms of technical rationality. Critical sustainability is a challenge to what Adorno called ‘deluded thinking’ and as an alternative to the ‘damaged life’ that has come with the unsustainable societies of modernity. It is now increasingly apparent that one of the many contradictions of modernity is the contradiction between the belief in the infinity of growth and the finite resources of the earth to sustain it. An immanent critique of modernity from the perspective of critical theory seeks thus to disclose the antagonism and contradiction of a society predicated on infinite growth, prosperity and progress but with finite resources.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Critical theory, sustainability, critical sustainability, environmentalism, nature, political ecology
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Gerard Delanty
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2020 09:16
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2020 09:30

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