City Research Online

Turning back the rising sea: Theory performativity in the shift from climate science to popular authority

Bowden, V., Gond, J-P. ORCID: 0000-0002-9331-6957, Nyberg, D. and Wright, C. (2021). Turning back the rising sea: Theory performativity in the shift from climate science to popular authority. Organization Studies,


Action on climate change continues to be hampered by vested interests seeding doubt about science and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Using a qualitative case study of local climate adaptation to sea level rise, we show how climate change science is translated into a self-referential theory focussed on property prices. Our analysis develops two mechanisms – enablement and theorization – to explain the relationship between theory performativity and power within a process of translation. This contributes to i) the performativity debate by showing how the constitution of power relations shapes theory performativity; ii) theories of power, by tracing the ways in which certain actors are able to enrol others and impact the authority of particular theories, and; iii) processes of translation by developing mechanisms for following the ways in which power and theory performativity interact. We conclude by arguing that a performative understanding of how power shapes beliefs is central to combat the failure to address climate change.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2021, the authors.
Publisher Keywords: power, performativity, translation, climate change
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Business School > Management
Date Deposited: 20 May 2021 08:11
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