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‘Sleepwalking’ from planetary thinking to the end of the international order

A Working Paper by Glenda Sluga | 2023


Sluga, Glenda (2021) "‘Sleepwalking’ from planetary thinking to the end of the international order " EUI Working Paper HEC 2021/02


This paper revisits the history of 20th century internationalism in order to excavate and grasp the long history of ‘planetary thinking’. It shows that planetary-scale thinking has been an available and well-used framing since the 1960s for discussing a growing awareness of the incompatibility of industrialised modernity and development and questions of environment. That awareness extended to the idea that the world was ‘sleepwalking’ its way to planet-scale climate catastrophe. By the later 1970s, however, planetary thinking had made way for the global, and with its connotations of an economically globalized world. Among the questions this paper raises are: How should we understand the appearance and disappearance of this 20th century planetary thinking? What were its possibilities and limitations? What does that history of ‘interruption’ tell us about the long history of ‘planetary thinking’? And can this same history help us recalibrate our contemporary thinking about how we write history, and what it’s for, in what is now an era of climate emergency?


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