Daniele  Conversi's picture
Beyond the Frontiers of Political Science: Is Good Governance Possible in Cataclysmic Times?
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About this Research Topic 

Over the last 10 years, political science has produced a vast amount of research on the impact of climate change and related existential disasters on existing political institutions. Hundreds of articles and books have been written on the environmental state, the green state, environmental governance, sustainable institutions and so on. 

However, no research in this field can prosper without a strong input from other disciplinary areas, particularly the natural sciences. Climate change is a complex and challenging set of interlinked events, phenomena and resulting problems and so it defies the usual disciplinary boundaries. The only way to progress and tackle these is by harnessing the entire apparatus of human knowledge and going beyond the frontiers of what we already know, while envisioning new scenarios and institutional forms.

This Research Topic is dedicated to addressing whether trans-disciplinarity and Good Governance is possible in cataclysmic times. It centers on the redefinition and re-articulation of political science, converging around a series of interlinked existential crises that cannot be tackled solely by political scientists. 

These changes signal the entrance into the Anthropocene, which an increasing number of natural and social scientists are identifying as a new epoch geologically and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. 

A vast number of interdisciplinary endeavors have arisen in this quest and history and other social science disciplines are already doing interdisciplinary work. The aim is to bring political science in line with other disciplines across the humanities and social sciences around a topic that can only be addressed from a robust and comprehensive cross-disciplinary perspective. The geographical spectrum is global and includes both so-called ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries. 

We aim to raise a set of related questions: 

1. How can we identify new tools and perspectives from which to address the multiple and mutually reinforcing problems accumulating around climate change? 

2. What is the role of the nation-state in the necessary transitions? Is it too controlled by vested interests for these transitions to be effective and up to the task?

3. Can the nation-state survive these existential challenges? If it can, how and in what forms can it survive?

4. Is the nation-state’s further shrinking desirable or is it another death knell for coordinated action to stop climate change?

5. What are the likely consequences of the nation-state’s incapacity to manage the approaching catastrophes?

6. What alternative institutions need to be created or empowered if the nation-state fails to tackle such complex problems? Is this a two-way process – how institutions need to reshape in the face of climate change? and how they can help to solve the problem? 

7. Will politics by itself be able to provide an answer, if not a solution? If not, how can we think outside the political box? 

8. Should we begin by changing our individual lifestyles while we wait for the state to provide the means and the legal framework needed for change? 

9. What will be the impact of the crisis on democracy and human rights? 

10. Could alternative communities, like eco-villages, transition towns, subsistence groups, sustainable communities, isolated tribes etc., acquire a juridical persona and become constitutionally enshrined as central institutional actors in the ecologic and energetic transitions?  

11. Should the promotion and defense of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), recently recognized as a central component of ecological transition and sustainability, be implemented at the political level as well? 

12. How can notions of biodiversity and bio-cultural diversity be better conceptualized in relationship with Anthropocene governance?  

These are only some of the possible questions raised in this Research Topic. They all point to the need to advance knowledge beyond the traditional frontiers of political science. Although we do not aim to respond to all these questions, each contribution will aspire to address at least one of them. 


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.