Ecological reflexivity: characterising an elusive virtue for governance in the Anthropocene

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Reflexivity – the capacity of an agent, structure or process to change in the light of reflection on its performance – has attracted widespread support among political theorists as a virtue for environmental governance. Dryzek argues that a distinctively ecological form of reflexivity becomes crucial for governing in the Anthropocene. But there remains a need to clarify the conceptual scope of ecological reflexivity and to ascertain whether it has distinctive analytical value. A new conceptual framework for ecological reflexivity is outlined, comprising three components: recognition, rethinking and response. Through a comparative analysis of reflexivity and four related concepts – adaptive and transformative governance, experimental governance, social learning and anticipatory governance – ecological reflexivity is shown to be especially well equipped to take account of political contestation over the nature and direction of change required to respond to ecological risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145-1166
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2019


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