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Green Governance and Energy Use: Neoliberalism in search of the "responsible citizen" and the practices of the UK carbon economy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

The United Kingdom has one of the most antiquated housing stocks within the EU, which each year is responsible for a staggering percentage of the UK's total energy consumption. This project analyses the politics and ‘everyday practices’—at both the institutional and individual level of the UK's shift in policy towards neoliberal environmental governance focused around free choice and voluntarism. Marking a substantial deviation from traditional forms of policy, this shift aims to help reduce the UK carbon footprint in line with legally binding emissions targets. Situated within the broad confines of research and theorisations of geographies of care and responsibility, the neoliberalisation of sustainability through the so-called ‘carbon economy’,depoliticisation and social justice, this project seeks to explore the complicated issues of morally responsible action and human agency with regards to behaviour. This project aims to move away from theories of reasoned action in order to take a more complete view of environmental consumption and its determinants. Rather than viewing consumption as entirely deliberate or determined by circumstance, environmentally relevant action may be viewed as a function of a series of causallylinked external and internal factors including physical structures, social institutions and economic forces (external), and general and specific attitudes and beliefs, information and behavioural intentions (internal). Using the example of the UK's Green Deal and Energy Performance Certificates, I present a detailed examination of the more mundane practices of ethical consumption that occur on a daily basis yet are frequently overlooked while evaluating empirical examples of neoliberal governance highlighting why some have succeeded while others have failed. I argue for the importance of research aimed at further exploring the relationship between internal and external factors and the barriers to the creation of a Foucauldian self-fulfilled “sustainable citizen” so that we may better understand the practices of everyday consumption and sustainability and how neoliberal methods of governance exert power on the individual.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2018

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