Epistemic communities in political ecology: critical deconstruction or radical advocacy?

Authors: , ,


Recent political ecology scholarship appears to be turning towards de-growth agendas and radical activism, notably in Europe. These postures diverge somewhat from the 'classical' political ecological tradition rooted in a critical deconstruction of dominant ideas and actors and field-based analyses. We posit a heuristic distinction between these two impulses. While both are based in critiques (Robbins' 'hatchet'), as far as the 'seed' one impulse leans more towards critical 'deconstruction', the other towards radical 'advocacy.' Through a systemic review of the political ecology literature, we seek to identify and characterize these impulses, link them to epistemic communities of knowledge production, and explain these trends. Our review incorporates qualitative analysis of key texts, as well as quantitative bibliometric and content analysis of Scopus-indexed publications referring to political ecology (1951-2019) and abstracts from all the articles published in Journal of Political Ecology, from POLLEN conferences in Europe (2016, 2018) and from DOPE conferences in the US (2013-2019). Among other things, we find that even if political ecology has long been divided between deconstructivist and advocacy approaches, the second is becoming preeminent since many political ecologists are taking a radical turn, with strong theoretically rooted attacks on the capitalist system taking place. Some political ecological research increasingly positions itself in socio-political debates related to the greening of unjust societies in the First World. This is most prominent in continental European academia (and some English universities), where political ecology is institutionally more marginal; in the remaining British and North American universities, the more deconstructivist impulse is more dominant but also more pluralistic in its orientations.

Keywords: epistemic communities, political ecology, bibliometric analysis, content analysis, critical theory, activism

How to Cite: Desvallées, L. , Arnauld de Sartre, X. & Kull, C. (2022) “Epistemic communities in political ecology: critical deconstruction or radical advocacy?”, Journal of Political Ecology. 29(1). doi: