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Divergent desires for the just transition in South Africa: an assemblage analysis

Barnes, Jonathan (2022) Divergent desires for the just transition in South Africa: an assemblage analysis. Political Geography, 97. ISSN 0962-6298

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2022.102655

Abstract

In this paper I establish a ‘just transition assemblage’ as a theoretical and empirical case-study to explore the plurality of justice in South Africa's energy transition. The coal phase-out is complicated by the legacies of apartheid, poverty, inequality, unemployment and structural crisis in the state-owned power utility. This transition is loaded with expectation but there is no consensus on what would qualify it as ‘just’. This assemblage analysis clusters desires around two distinct post-carbon imaginaries. The first is an ordering of desires for justice in a diffuse, distributional sense, targeting greenhouse gas emission reductions and looking to smooth the negative impacts of the transition. I label this approach ‘net justice’. This targets more justice overall in defined political spaces, and contrasts with the second orientation around recognising, reconciling, and addressing specific injustices. These desires are distinguished by a contrasting purpose of renewable energy and differing attitudes to its appropriateness or fit. There are incoherent spatial effects, where net justice is shown to be a territorialising project whilst specific injustices need to be de-territorialised. Emphasising desire shows how material and history are enrolled and enlivened, contributing to post-carbon imaginaries. This approach enables injustice and net justice to be understood as conceptually distinct, despite seeming unified calls for a just transition. The primary contribution of this paper is to show how in some cases, popular uses of the terms justice and injustice refer to different things. It forces attention on the question of: ‘justice for whom?’

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/political-ge...
Additional Information: © 2022 Elsevier Ltd
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 19 May 2022 10:45
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 10:00
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/115150

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