New book: The Politics of Uncertainty

A new book, The Politics of Uncertainty: Challenges of Transformation, has just been published by Routledge in the STEPS Centre’s Pathways to Sustainability series. The book is co-edited by PASTRES principal investigator Ian Scoones, and Andy Stirling of SPRU, University of Sussex. Although not about pastoralism, the book tackles many of themes central to thinking about intersecting uncertainties in pastoral societies. 

The book is available free to download or read online (Open Access) from the publisher’s website.

About the book

Why is uncertainty so important to politics today? To explore the underlying reasons, issues and challenges, this book’s chapters address finance and banking, insurance, technology regulation and critical infrastructures, as well as climate change, infectious disease responses, natural disasters, migration, crime and security and spirituality and religion.

The book argues that uncertainties must be understood as complex constructions of knowledge, materiality, experience, embodiment and practice. Examining in particular how uncertainties are experienced in contexts of marginalisation and precarity, this book shows how sustainability and development are not just technical issues, but depend deeply on political values and choices.

What burgeoning uncertainties require lies less in escalating efforts at control, but more in a new – more collective, mutualistic and convivial – politics of responsibility and care. If hopes of much-needed progressive transformation are to be realised, then currently blinkered understandings of uncertainty need to be met with renewed democratic struggle.

Uncertainty and pastoralism

The book explores themes raised in last year’s international symposium on ‘The Politics of Uncertainty’, which was co-convened by the STEPS Centre and PASTRES.

As the PASTRES programme seeks to learn from and with pastoralists about how to respond to uncertainty, the book offers insights into a range of cases – from climate change to disasters to finance to insurance to migration and much more. Pastoralists often have to deal with more than one source of uncertainty at a time – from financial risks and fluctuating markets, to changing patterns of climate change, or the impact of animal diseases or even a global pandemic.

As discussed on this blog many times, we’ve seen the importance of flexible, adaptive, learning approaches to unknowns, and the importance of mutual support and the ‘moral economy’ in dealing with surprise and crisis. The cases discussed in the book – whether on banking in Europe or critical infrastructures and technology regulation in the Americas – have many resonances with pastoral settings, suggesting important opportunities for mutual learning and exchange, as we are attempting to do in the PASTRES programme.

Read the book:

The Politics of Uncertainty: Challenges of Transformation

More resources from PASTRES:

Read an overview of pastoralism and global uncertainties

Online course: Pastoralism and Uncertainty

See also our Publications page for a series of Working Papers on uncertainty, exploring theories about uncertainty, principles and practices, regional perspectives, and management.

You can see more and follow the PASTRES project on Twitter and Instagram

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