The Politics of Sustainability and Development

Posted: 27 Oct 2016

See all articles by Ian Scoones

Ian Scoones

University of Sussex - Institute of Development Studies

Date Written: October 2016


This review examines the relationships between politics, sustainability, and development. Following an overview of sustainability thinking across different traditions, the politics of resources and the influence of scarcity narratives on research, policy and practice are explored. This highlights the politics of transformations and the way these play out under combinations of technology-led, market-led, state-led, and citizen-led processes. In particular, this review points to the politics of alliance building and collective action for sustainability and development. Transformations cannot be managed or controlled, but must draw on an unruly politics, involving diverse knowledges and multiple actors. This review highlights how politics are articulated through regimes of truth, rule, and accumulation, and how understanding such political processes has implications for institutional and governance responses. The conclusion reflects on future research priorities and the methodological stance required for an effective response to the political challenges of sustainability and development.

Suggested Citation

Scoones, Ian, The Politics of Sustainability and Development (October 2016). Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 41, pp. 293-319, 2016, Available at SSRN: or

Ian Scoones (Contact Author)

University of Sussex - Institute of Development Studies ( email )

Falmer, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 9RE
United Kingdom

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