The new environmentalism of everyday life: Sustainability, material flows and movements

David Schlosberg, Romand Coles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


This article analyzes recent developments in environmental activism, in particular movements focused on reconfiguring material flows. The desire for sustainability has spawned an interest in changing the material relationship between humans, other beings, and the non-human realm. No longer willing to take part in unsustainable practices and institutions, and not satisfied with purely individualistic and consumer responses, a growing focus of environmental movement groups is on restructuring everyday practices of circulation, for example, on sustainable food, renewable energy, and making. The shift to a more sustainable materialism is examined using three frameworks: a move beyond an individualist and value-focused notion of post-materialism, into a focus on collective practices and institutions for the provision of the basic needs of everyday life; Foucault's conceptions of governmentality and biopolitics, which articulate modes of power around the circulation of things, information, and individuals; and a new ethos around vibrant and sustainable materialism with an explicit recognition of human immersion in non-human natural systems. These frames allow us to see and interpret common themes across numerous, seemingly disparate initiatives focused on replacing unsustainable practices and forging alternative flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-181
Number of pages22
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Environmentalism
  • governmentality
  • new materialism
  • post-materialism
  • social movements
  • sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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