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Publication details for Professor Harriet Bulkeley

Bulkeley, H. (2012). Governance and the geography of authority: modalities of authorisation and the transnational governing of climate change. Environment and Planning A 44(10): 2428-2444.

Author(s) from Durham


Within debates about the emergence and nature of governance, it has become commonplace to debate the whereabouts and possibilities of authority. Traditionally, authority is conceived as a property of some actor or institution and is regarded as divisible over time and space. Drawing on theories of power, in which it is regarded as constitutive of social relations, this paper proposes an alternative account of authority in which it is seen as one form of power that can be enacted towards three distinct purposes—instrumental (as consent), associational (as consensus), and governmental (as concord)—involving particular forms of recognition and compliance, and mediated through distinct sociospatial relations. The paper examines the potential of such an approach through exploring the workings of authority in transnational climate-change governance. Given the sustained debates within this field concerning the shifting geographies of authority between public/private actors and across different political spaces, this provides an important test of the explanatory value of this approach. The analysis suggests that, while these modes are not mutually exclusive, they orchestrate the ‘will to govern’ in significantly different ways, with important implications both for how governing is accomplished and for the geographies of global environmental governance.