The post-political nature of Marine Spatial Planning and modalities for its re-politicisation.


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Marine spatial planning (MSP) has become the most adopted approach for sustainable marine governance. While MSP has transformative capacity, evaluations of its implementation illustrate large gaps between how it is conceptualised and how it is practiced. We argue that these gaps arise from MSP being implemented through post-political processes. Although MSP has been explored through post-political lenses, these evaluations are incomplete and do not provide sufficient detail about the complex nature of the post-political condition. Drawing on seminal literature, we conceptualise the post-political as consisting of highly interconnected modalities of depoliticisation, including: neoliberalism; choreographed participation; path dependency; technocratic-managerialism; and the illusion of progressive change. Using these modalities as an analytical framework, we evaluate English MSP and find that it focuses on entrenching neoliberal logic through: tokenistic participation; wholescale adoption of path-dependent solutions; obstructionist deployment of inactive technological solutions; and promising progressive change. We do not, however, view the post-political condition as unresolvable and we develop a suite of suggestions for the repoliticisation of MSP which, collectively, could form the basis for more radical forms of MSP.  

Sea Basin(s): 
September 2019
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Social aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Vision and aims
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 

Questions this practice may help answer: 

  • Is MSP a transformative process in practice?  
  • Has MSP become post-political in nature? 
  • How can MSP be re-politicized?   

Implementation Context: 

The study was conducted in the context of PhD thesis elaborated in the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast.  

Aspects / Objectives: 

The study analysed the differences between MSP conceptualization and its implementation as a "post-political" process calling into question the expected benefits of MSP.  


The study identified the post-political factors on example of marine spatial planning in England. It involved the semi-structured interviews and document analysis.  

Main Outputs / Results: 

The authors highlighted how MSP has become of post-political nature in the UK, what are the symptoms of this evolution, how they are interconnected, and how they affect MSP process and its anticipated benefits. The study provided a set of recommendations for the re-politicisation of MSP.  


The issues identified by the authors can be found in any MSP process, and recommendations proposed can support MSP in other countries.  

Responsible Entity: 

School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast (UK). 

Funding Source: 

Department for Economy, Northern Ireland. 

Contact person: 

Jane Clarke: