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The limits of the environmental state in the context of the provision of economic growth are addressed by applying materialist state theory, state-rescaling approaches and the degrowth/postgrowth literature. I compare state roles in a capitalist growth economy and in a postgrowth economy geared towards bio-physical parameters such as matter and energy throughput and the provision of ‘sustainable welfare’. In both cases state roles are analysed in relation to the economy, welfare, and the environment, as well as state spatiality. Finally, I address the state in a transition from a growth economy to a sustainable postgrowth economy. I argue that materialist state and sustainable welfare theories are capable of informing state-led ‘eco-social’ policies that, if integrated in a comprehensive policy strategy, have the potential to overcome the growth imperative in the economy and policymaking and break the growth-related glass ceiling of the environmental state.

Environmental Politics, October 2019