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. & Wright, C. (2021). Turning back the rising sea: Theory performativity in the shift from climate science to popular authority. Organization Studies, 42(12), pp. 1909-1931. doi: 10.1177/01708406211024558


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: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
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