Christian Parenti: Rethinking the State in the Context of Climate Crisis

  • SFU Woodward's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, Coast Salish Territories

Christian Parenti: Rethinking the State in the Context of Climate Crisis

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 | 7:00 PM

Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema,
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts

Free, but registration 

SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement presents:

Rethinking the State in the Context of Climate Crisis

Neoliberalism has almost disappeared The State as an object of serious study. But the fast approaching social and economic dislocations of climate change will likely force a return of the state to the center of political life. Thus the Left needs to reengage state theory. Already during emergencies like natural disasters, it is the state that is called forth, because only the state has the political legitimacy and economic capacity to respond. How it responds is a different question. Sometimes it fails, but always it is called. The state’s crisis-driven return could mean a further hardening of its repressive and undemocratic features – a heightened role for the executive, more police power, class quarantine, subsidies for élites. Or, it can involve a democratic renovation of government’s progressive functions such as industrial regulation, economic planning, public and downward economic redistribution.

In this lecture Christian Parenti, professor of Sustainable Development at the School for International Training and author of Tropic of Chaos , Lockdown America and several other books will sketch an environmental history and political theory of the capitalist state in the context of the climate crisis.


Christian Parenti holds a PhD in Sociology (co-supervised in Geography) from the London School of Economics; he later completed a series of post-doctoral fellowships at the City University of New York Graduate Center where he worked closely with the geographers Neil Smith and David Harvey. He has held fellowships from the Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation. His current research focuses on the environmental history of state involvement in American economic development, from the earliest days of the republic onward.

Most of his previous publications have focused on war, crime, repression, surveillance, and state power. His latest book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2011), explores how climate change is already causing violence as it interacts with the social legacies of economic neoliberalism and cold-war militarism. The book involved several years of travel and research in conflict zones of the Global South.

His three earlier books are The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq (2005), a work of analytic and ethnographic reportage on the first years of US military occupation in Iraq; The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror (2002), a history of routine, everyday surveillance that traces the development of political technologies, like fingerprinting and photographic identification, from their origins in the antebellum South to the present; and Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (2000/2008), Christian’s first book, considered a social science classic. Lockdown explores the history of the US prison and policing buildup since the 1960s and argues that the buildup is rooted in both global-scale economy shifts and national discursive projects of racialized class control and political theater.

As a journalist, he has reported extensively from Afghanistan, Iraq, and various parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. His articles have appeared in Fortune, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Middle East Report, London Review of Books, Mother Jones, and The Nation (where he is a contributing editor). He has also helped make several documentaries and has won numerous journalistic awards, including the 2009 Lange-Tailor Prize and “Best Magazine Writing 2008” from the Society for Professional Journalists. He also received a 2009 Emmy nomination for the documentary “Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi.”