Chapter 3: Power within and beyond the state: understanding how power relations shape environmental management

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



As a fundamentally social activity, environmental management is inescapably bound to questions of power. This chapter reviews some of the diverse ways in which power relations come to bear on the decisions, processes and outcomes associated with environmental management. The review considers power as expressed through formal governmental institutions, power as embedded in social relationships and power as a medium and outcome of civil society practices. Starting from a distinction between corrective and persuasive influence, we explore the application of theories of power to questions of environmental management, considering issues such as inequality in access to environmental goods and exposure to environmental harms and the role of state and non-state actors and organizations in perpetuating and resisting domination. We draw upon insights from the interdisciplinary field of political ecology to illustrate applications of these concepts to problems of environmental management. In addition, we consider how the explicit consideration of power in its myriad forms can inform and improve transdisciplinary research and result in more just and effective outcomes.

Publisher's Statement

© Kathleen E. Halvorsen, Chelsea Schelly, Robert M. Handler, Erin C. Pischke and Jessie L. Knowlton 2019. Publisher's version of record:

Publication Title

A Research Agenda for Environmental Management