Centre for Advanced International Theory (CAIT)

2019 Sussex International Theory Prize

I am very pleased to announce CAIT's 2019 Sussex International Theory Prize Winner. The Prize Committee decided after a stimulating meeting to award the prize to:

Geoff Mann & Joel Wainwright, Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future
(London/New York: Verso 2018)

It was a real pleasure choosing from a very strong and diverse set of submissions. I would like to thank the CAIT Management Team - Melanie Richter-Montpetit, Beate Jahn and David Karp - for their superb work during the prize selection process. 

The winners will be invited to the School of Global Studies in 2019/20 to deliver the 2019 Sussex International Theory Prize Lecture.

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future"Here is an engagingly written and rigorously argued book that addresses the perhaps most pressing issue of our times: climate change and its likely political consequences for world order. Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright's Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future suggests that we are heading towards 'Climate Leviathan' - a new type of planetary sovereignty, revolving around US-led declarations of climate emergencies (possibly in duopolistic conjunction with China) to defend capitalist elite interests - while the rest of the world is advised to techno-functionally adapt to planetary crisis. This diagnostic rests on a detailed analysis of the failures of current UN-led liberal attempts to construct the regulatory institutional capacities and binding commitments to mitigate climate change - from Kyoto and Copenhagen to the Paris Agreement. This critique extends also to the most progressive supranational left-liberal calls for a new Keynesian 'Green Deal': a Green Bretton Woods. Failure to overcome the collective-action problem and free riding in a world of multiple nation-states conjures up the spectre of Schmittian planetary sovereignty. This is no longer grounded in US/UN-led consensual Western hegemony, but in a series of unilateral emergency decisions that seize command, differentially imposed to stabilise growth in the heartlands of capitalist privilege.

While this nightmare scenario draws on the philosophical lineages of Hobbes and Schmitt, Mann and Wainwright construct a radical eco-socialist counter-strategy under the heading of ‘climate justice’. This strategy draws theoretically on Marx, Benjamin, and a radical Gramscian historicism to forge an anti-capitalist ‘movement of movements’ outside the nation-state. Critiquing the concept of the 'anthropocene' by rejecting the notion of a universal human agent as the perpetrator of climate change and a common experience of naturalised disasters, the alternative future lies in a project labelled 'Climate X': emancipatory struggles against capitalism's exhaustion of internal and external nature, enriched by indigenous experiences of modes of life in which nature is not conceived as an adversary. While no doubt controversial and open-ended, this book succeeds in combining grand theoretical reflections and rich insights from environmental sociology, ecological geography, the critique of political economy, and IR Theory, with detailed empirical analysis of the politics of climate science and the technicalities of international climate diplomacy. The result is a thought-provoking and highly topical multi-disciplinary intellectual tour de force – the kind of analysis that the Sussex Center for Advanced International Theory seeks to promote."

Professor Benno Teschke
Director, Center for Advanced International Theory