International Political Economy and the Environment: Back to the Basics?


For the past two decades, scholars of international political economy and the environment (IPEE) have become quite focused on the study of various international cooperative initiatives that seek to link economic and environmental issues in the wake of the 1987 Brundtland Report and the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. This important work has enhanced our understanding of topics such as the economic dimensions of international environmental governance, the environmental activities of international economic institutions and regimes, and new kinds of private international regimes governing the environment–economy interface. This focus of IPEE scholarship has, however, steered attention away from larger structural trends in the international political economy, whose environmental implications are not addressed explicitly by significant international governance arrangements. Three such trends that are deserving of more attention from IPEE scholars include: the globalization of financial markets; the rise of newly powerful states such as China and India in the global economy; and the recent emergence of high and volatile commodity prices. Each of these structural trends—as well as their interrelationships—have important environmental consequences whose closer study enhances our understanding of the relationship between the international political economy and the environment. Their study also encourages scholars to widen their focus beyond treaties, institutions and regimes to examine broader global economic structures and processes, and the power relationships within them, in an interdisciplinary manner that can draw inspiration from the pioneers of the field of international political economy from the 1970s.


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Last updated on 08/29/2017