Cold Monsters and Ecological Leviathans: Reflections on the Relationships between States and the Environment



The relationship between state administrations and environmental issues has been an enduring concern of geographers, environmentalists, philosophers, sociologists and political scientists for a considerable length of time. This article provides a critical review of approaches to the study of state–environment relations across of a range of different disciplines. While states have been criticised as either ineffectual, unjust, or even irrelevant managers of socio-environmental relations in the modern world, this article argues that states continue to play a significant role within a range of environmental issues at a number of different scales. In order to explore the contested role of the state within contemporary environmental affairs, this article outlines three broad sets of approaches to state–environment relations: normative perspectives, critical approaches and notions of environmental governmentality. It is asserted that approaches adopting theories of environmental governmentality offer a critical, but highly creative, framework in and through which to study the contemporary entanglements of states and the environment.