Power and Politics in the World-System

A Cross-National Analysis of Environmental Governance


  • Jamie M. Sommer University of South Florida
  • Andrew Hargrove Stony Brook University




CO2 emissions, Anthropocene, governance, world-systems, cross-national, climate change


While various researchers and practitioners agree that it will be hard to restructure our current global and local systems to adapt to and mitigate climate change, there is unsurprisingly great disagreement in how and if this can be accomplished and on what level(s), or if this is even what needs to be accomplished. These conversations have continued with the introduction of the “Anthropocene.” The dominant interpretation of the concept poses several solutions, one being national government restructuring to support environmental efforts and encouraging behavioral change. To join conversations that critically evaluate the conceptualization and implications of the Anthropocene with the world-systems perspective, we consider how the effectiveness of national environmental governance in reducing CO2 emissions varies by a country’s position in the global hierarchy. Using two-way fixed effects regression, this article tests how one aspect of this environmental governance, environmentally related taxes as a percentage of total tax revenue impacts CO2 emissions for 75 countries from 2000 to 2011. Given inequities in the global division of labor, which reinforce the dominance of higher-income countries and the exploitation of lower-income countries, we expect the effectiveness of environmental governance to vary tremendously by global position. Our results support the idea that the impact of environmental governance on CO2 emissions varies across countries at different income levels in the world-system, and this is due to external constraints. Such external influence is unsurprisingly neglected in dominant interpretations of the Anthropocene. In line with previous critical research, we argue that these external constraints undermine climate change solutions because they fail to address mutually reinforcing global, political, economic, and environmental inequalities.


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How to Cite

Sommer, J. M., & Hargrove, A. (2020). Power and Politics in the World-System: A Cross-National Analysis of Environmental Governance. Journal of World-Systems Research, 26(2), 263–287. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2020.998



Special Issue: World-Systems Analysis in the Anthropocene