Green Ideology: Retreat and Regrouping
Green Ideology: Retreat and Regrouping
Abstract and Keywords
The latter part of the twentieth century has seen the emergence of a number of groupings of political thought that attempt to escape from the morphological and interpretative constraints of the older established ideologies. One way of effecting this has been through the processes of redefining the domain of the political, reconceptualizing the ideational elements of the contending ideologies, renaming the components of political vocabulary, and revalorizing marginal political concepts. Another has been through decreased internal integration in comparison to existing ideological families, the outcome being the formation of thin‐centred assimilative ideologies, which then either challenge the relevance of additional ideological baggage, or thicken by ingesting the patterns of other ideologies. This chapter and the next examine two of the more prominent exemplars, and illustrate a potentially deep divide among analysts: are these ideologies extensive but eclectic or unique but truncated? Here, green ideology is examined; the seven sections of the chapter are: (a) The core concepts of green discourse; (b) Deficient dichotomies; (c) Conservative components?; (d) The individualist ingredient; (e) The ambivalence of power; (f) The green perimeter; and (g) Eco‐feminism: a distinct position?
Existing analyses of green ideology fall into a number of categories that are not mutually exclusive. Some classify it under the heading of new social movements;1 others distinguish between red (socialist) and green (anarchist) forms. Others again define green political thinking as left‐ecological, or as neither left nor right. There are those who see green ideologies as a postmodern demand for radical democracy, or as a development from nineteenth‐century anti‐capitalist and liberationist movements, or as a new rendering of conservatism. Alternatively, they may be seen as a protest phenomenon, issue‐led, and possibly ephemeral. It will be suggested here that green ideology may be studied in its own right, while accepting some of the above distinctions, dismissing others, and, most significantly, reorganizing our understanding on the basis of the morphological approach adopted in this book. Green ideology does revolve around core concepts, though it presents a somewhat narrow range relative to the challenges other contemporary ideologies—functioning as socio‐political agendas for public policy—have to meet. It draws heavily on existing and familiar spectrums of solutions to some of those broader agendas, but even when that is the case, the specifics of ideological morphology dictate an inevitable adaptation of those borrowed ideological structures. The introduction of idea‐sets from other ideologies, however extensive they may be, creates a new conceptual interaction between the distinct green core and its imported adjacencies and peripheries which is bound to invest them with new or subtly changed meaning. Hence, while acknowledging the existence of diverse green ideologies,2 the status of a distinct green ideological family rests on the possibility of identifying a morphologically (p.527) singular core and a morphologically singular assimilation of the adjacent and peripheral ideas of other ideational systems.
(a) The Core Concepts of Green Discourse
The variants of green ideological discourse exhibit the following core components. First, the relationship between human beings and nature, which adopts crucial ontological as well as prescriptive status. Nature becomes an overriding factor in guiding human conduct. Second, the valued preservation of the integrity of nature and of forms of life, including human ones. This is usually associated with a recognition of the finiteness of resources and the irreversibility of some kinds of intervention in nature.3 Hence also the adjacent inevitabilities of imposing constraints on progress, development, and thus on history. Third, the promotion of variants of holism, decontested as the interdependence or harmony of all forms of life. Fourth, an emphasis on the concrete and immediate implementation of qualitative human lifestyles. This is an unusual kind of core concept. It constitutes not only a substantive belief in the value of action through example, but a rare instance of a core ideological notion that emphasizes the indispensable role of perimeter practices in the urgent realization of the other core concepts. Its function is to ensure the elevation of perimeter concepts to close temporal, if not morphological, proximity to the core.
Uncommonly among political ideologies, these core concepts are insufficient on their own to conjure up a vision or interpretation of human and social interaction or purpose. Ryle's general remark applies to green morphology as well: ‘Ecological limits may limit political choices, but they do not determine them.’4 Nor do green core concepts point (as with conservatism) in the direction of a clear method of reacting to such visions and interpretations. The high degree of core indeterminacy necessitates an appeal to a very diverse range of socio‐political positions in order to formulate public policy, particularly if based on the kind of general social programme ideologies develop when competing over the legitimate meanings of key political terms. It may well be that greens, like feminists, intend to challenge the existing range of political vocabulary, rather than invest it with new meaning, and (p.528) to do so both on grounds of its paucity in relation to their core beliefs and as a protest against currently dominant political language. But existing and predominant political vocabularies, and the thought‐behaviour to which they relate, must always act as constraints on the operational and strategic deployment of language by new ideological groupings if their competitive bids are to succeed. In order to introduce a new vocabulary, they must first control, or eliminate, the meanings employed by the old.
The indeterminacy of the green core concepts permits their mutual proximity to take a number of paths, which weave in and out of a wide range of political traditions. A stress on nature invariably invokes the decentring of human action and of the overriding value attached to human societies, though differential emphases are acquired through attaching ‘anthropocentric’ or ‘ecocentric’ positions. When combined with the notion of preservation, severe restrictions may be placed upon purposive human action geared to economic and social change. The appeal to nature curbs both planned and unplanned human conduct considered to be inimical to a given relationship between human beings and their environments, while eliciting alternative planned human conduct to safeguard that relationship. Most green ideologists, including both eco‐socialists and conservative greens, are uncomfortable with the modernist notion of change and with constructions of the world grounded on that notion. All this is mediated through the prism of holism, the third core concept, which generates various types of organicism, interdependence, and equilibrium as desired ends as well as prerequisites for viable life and for human flourishing. Communality (inter‐ and intraspecies) becomes a manifestation of preservable (always decontested as beneficial and morally desirable)5 forms of organization. Finally, the above concepts are cemented through the immediate adoption of social practices. These aim at implementing the core concept cluster, including a wide spread of adjacent concepts, and at presenting role models charged with the task of inculcating universal moral norms. Action is central to green ideology, but not because—as with Marxism—the human being is defined per se as homo faber. It is central because the human–nature relationship is one of mutually sustaining and, for humans at least, pleasurable interaction; (p.529) and because the other green core concepts are perceived as under imminent, constant, and irreversible threat.
These are the contours of the semantic field in which green ideologists hold their multiple discourses. It is a field populated by core concepts that, with the exception of variants of holism, do not constitute the nucleus of other major ideological families. Conversely, other concepts central to progressive social and political discourse—liberty, equality, or rationality—are conspicuously lacking at the core. Moreover, the indeterminacy, and social and political thinness, of the green core conceptual cluster allows for an exceedingly diverse range of decontestations when adjacent concepts are brought into play. Some of the most common adjacent concepts (acknowledging the impossibility of an inclusive list) are: biodiversity, community, control, decentralization, democracy, development, emancipation, equality, harmony, organicism, participation, and self‐sufficiency. Additional logical adjacencies to these concepts, such as equilibrium, the state, bioregionalism, rationality, and planning decontest them further. The configurations formed by following different routes among contiguous conceptual arrangements demonstrate some of the complexities of green ideology. Raschke has suggested that the lack of a scale of priorities weakens the consensus problem among the greens. This certainly is a problem of political action, but its basic ideological cause lies not in an unwillingness to forge a consensus but in the inability of the conceptual core to supply a stronger constraining structure for adjacent decontestations.6 Its looseness permits the formation of multiple scales of priority through a variety of conceptual concatenations. Red, anarchist, or conservative classifications are a genealogical method of imposing order on green ideology. The morphological approach assumes, to the contrary, multifarious conceptual intersections—possibly encouraged and constrained by past ideational affiliations but far from reduced to them—that reside in the very structure of ideological argument and whose subtlety and shape cannot be explained through the wholesale grafting of external diachronies, particularly not in a pure or exclusionary form.
Nor is the problem merely that of a failure to eliminate the logical tension among green values and concepts. Wiesenthal, who correctly points out the pluralism of orientations on left–right, (p.530) radical–moderate, and lifestyle dimensions, as a barrier to adopting a single principle that could resolve tensions,7 implies that an ideological morphology could in principle be constructed to enable such resolution. Saward goes further in bemoaning the tension between the elements of the green ‘value‐set’, as ‘given the holism the green imperative is based on we would have the right to expect these goals and values to be thoroughly compatible’.8 This remark is based on a misunderstanding of the epistemology of holism. A holistic relationship entails the mutual interdependence of all the concepts it encompasses, but not the mutual interdependence of all the meanings of all those concepts. In other words, given the core concept of holism, it is still quite possible to construct a number of alternative holistic systems with the same set of concepts at our disposal, each prescribing certain outcomes and proscribing others. Green holism is itself pluralist, not monist, and any of its quasi‐contingent concrete instances emphasizes and prioritizes one configuration of concepts and, within it, certain meanings of each of those concepts. No holistic system relating to an operative world can be holistic in the most inclusive sense, for its generality would stretch to vacuity. The goals and values of green ideology cannot be, as Saward suggests, ‘thoroughly compatible’ in that sense.
(b) Deficient Dichotomies
A closer examination of green core components, their adjacent logical implications, and the cultural choices they encourage, may be helpful here. A common fault‐line is frequently assumed to run between ecocentric and anthropocentric positions. Commenting on the first core concept, the human–nature relationship, one eco‐political theorist has observed: ‘an ecocentric approach regards the question of our proper place in the rest of nature as logically prior to the question of what are the most appropriate social and political arrangements for human communities.’9 Ecocentrism, broadly speaking, decontests (non‐human) nature as endowed with independent status, while asserting its intrinsic value. Anthropocentrism decontests nature as a human environment, its wholesomeness vital to human expression and development, but significantly (p.531) instrumental to those ends. Many forms of ecocentrism adopt one of the most alluring forms of argument produced by ideologists: an appeal to inherent features of the observable world. In Eckersley's terms, ‘nonhuman nature knows no human ethics, it simply is’.10 Fox asserts holistically: ‘given a deep enough understanding of the way things are . . . one will naturally be inclined to care for the unfolding of the world in all its aspects’.11 O'Riordan talks of a ‘natural morality’ that displaces the humanist morality derived through human cultural institutions.12 Tellingly, these views may appear in an anthropocization of nature, such as in the phrase ‘nature knows best’. Whether or not nature has intrinsic value is a question that cannot be resolved adequately by any of these perspectives: the ecocentric, weak anthropocentric, or strong anthropocentric.13 For as Bookchin has observed,
The issue must remain ideological inasmuch as we lack access to information that can determine its truth status. Yet again, the truth status of a view is not necessarily a good indicator of the human reactions to it, and when it cannot be ascertained, its use‐value lies in another domain—its role in illuminating the political usage of language.
the ‘biocentrism’ ideology of deep ecology . . . pivots on an ideological trick: a strict assertion of biocentric ‘rights’ is sharply counterposed to an equally strict condemnation of anthropocentric ‘rights,’ as though no body of ethical ideas could be formulated that transcended both extremes . . . In a natural world from which human beings were absent, no ethics, no concept of ‘rights,’ indeed, no notion of ‘intrinsic’ worth could possibly exist.14
Can we then organize green ideology around an anthropocentric environmentalism that seeks to generate a nature friendly towards long‐term, presumably ethical, human ends? Both ecocentrism and anthropocentrism search for a sustainable harmony; that is, both engage the green ideological core. As would be expected from the complexities of ideological structure, however, the distinction (p.532) between the two obfuscates other fissures and combinations, no less important and revealing. The ecocentric–anthropocentric divide is logically arbitrary. It may of course be culturally significant, but mainly from the viewpoint of its producers—themselves green ideologists. There may be additional cultural reasons (such as membership of a class, or sympathies for a political tradition, or geographic location) for preferring other classifications (based, for instance, on considerations of equality, or community, or attitudes towards power and the state). Moreover, what is contained under the heading ‘ecocentric’ or ‘anthropocentric’ is merely shorthand for a complex range of positions. No construction that might be imposed on oral and written green texts is essentially privileged, though any may be revealing of some facet of green ideology. That is why the philosophical search for foundational green principles is misleading, for it can only be successful at the cost of distorting the meaning, and surplus of meaning, of available texts.
The multiplicity of analytical perspectives endemic in the manner in which green political thought presents itself may be illustrated by examining the conjunction between two of its cores—the human–nature relationship and holism—and inspecting some of their adjacent derivative decontestations. Thus a number of logical paths leading from that base explore the socialist emphasis on human relationships, drawing in adjacent communitarian notions as well as conceptions of human (and non‐human) flourishing related to need. Notably, this route of inquiry does not separate ecocentrics from anthropocentrics. The former have allocated high value to their affinity with communitarian views, expressed in the adjacent concepts of bioregionalism and in the integration of local communities set in their particular ecosystems, though not necessarily ruling out larger social structures.15 Thus for Naess, holism is a Gestalt conception that regards nature as a total system of interacting and interpenetrating parts, in which vital needs are satisfied in diverse local communities.16 Anthropocentrics, in one of their leading currents (eco‐socialism) follow the socialist morphology that identifies the human relationship as one of its core ideas. Community becomes one of the core's foremost expressions, and decentralization is also advocated, though not so much for its association with bio‐locality as with face‐to‐face direct democracy.17 Clearly, decentralization is not inextricably associated with green (p.533) ideology at all. It may invoke simplicity, bioregionalism, and ‘back to the land’, but it can be put to work in complex technological urban settings. What identifies decentralization as a component of green discourse is its conjunction with other concepts central to that field.
Crucial divergences as well as overlaps may cut across both the ecocentric and the anthropocentric camps. For example, the concept of community raises a series of periphery‐type questions diversely answered by green ideologists. Who is to be a member of the community: human beings and animals/plants/inanimate matter? What is the status of such membership: equal, hierarchical, rights‐claiming, or duties‐eliciting? What is the intensity of the communal relationship: embedded or instrumental interdependence, monolithic or pluralistic? What are the spatial boundaries of the community: local, regional, national, or some combination of these? What is the time‐span of the community: present, present and past, or present and future, generations? Any one of a large configuration of rejoinders may still place the respondent within the ambit of green ideology.
The attachment of organicist interpretations to holism also opens up problems with adjacent concepts such as egalitarianism, social change, or individualism. One path involves the decision on whether to include or exclude egalitarianism as an adjacent concept. Some ecocentrics offer a radical rejection of hierarchy in which the human species acquires no priority over other forms of life, so that socio‐political arrangements no longer occupy stage‐centre but are made to reflect the equal plurality of the ‘biotic community’.18 That latter phrase presents the core concept of holism as a mutually constituting order that is not specifically human. It contains a notion of ethics as communality that in its maximalist form, in Aldo Leopold's words, ‘enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land’.19 As Lovelock phrased it in his famous Gaia hypothesis: ‘the entire range of living matter on Earth, from whales to viruses, and from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity . . . endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts.’20 The concept of equality also offers a principal means of channelling perceptions of the North–South (p.534) divide to concentrate on more equal access to global resources, as well as applying to the relations between present and future generations.21
These versions of radical equality forge an obvious link with anarchist thought and with non‐statist varieties of socialism, in so far as human organization is retained only in participatory communal forms intended to eliminate invidious types of power. However, such direct participation is predicated on a prior acceptance of other substantive green values, without which direct democracy may not speak in a single voice, or even a green voice at all. The specifically green decontestation of democracy is held in place by associating the latter with a holistic community, with small‐scale regionalism, with the human lifestyle most in harmony with nature—and therefore the most liberating—as well as with egalitarian views. A distinct reshaping of conceptual meanings occurs when these proximities are established. Furthermore, the goal of human emancipation attached to this mode of argument has its equivalent in the ecocentric desire to free nature from harmful human control and domination, particularly in the form of consumerist hyperactivity. To the extent that anarchists and some non‐state socialists foresee the eradication of politics, green thought does so only in its fundamentalist, as distinct from realist, mode.22 But it is patently possible from the ecocentric perspective to eliminate equality as an adjacent concept, and to do so for arguably valid reasons. One such reason could be the invocation of the expertise without which rational solutions to ecological problems are virtually impossible. Another could be a distrust, at least in the short run, of interest‐based consumer‐led democratic decision‐making. A third could be a deep‐rooted antipathy to the human race, identified as the main instigator of environmental harm.
If one crucial message of contemporary progressive ideologies is the underlying unity and equal worth of the objects of their concern, an analysis of green ideology must look beyond, and through, some of the conventional categories employed in its investigation. The dichotomy as heuristic tool proves in this case once again to be merely of limited value. The one‐to‐one relationship between party and ideology also supplies only a partial picture. The standard ‘semi‐circle’ classification from left to right, in which green ideology is located at the left of the spectrum, has related historically to many of its specific manifestations, such as the German (p.535) Green party,23 but not to the logical and cultural possibilities both inherent in green morphology and evident in green thought‐patterns. Even the famous green slogan, ‘neither left nor right, but in front’, while correctly eschewing conventional political categories, is unsophisticated in promoting a single‐profile approach. Green ideology does not have a distinctive ‘front’ position.
(c) Conservative Components?
Another path begins to converge on the conservative core concept of invoking the extra‐human origins of the social order, though it does so in its own peculiar way: nature is harnessed not with the aim of sanctifying any human arrangement that may control social change—as with conservatives—but in order to select only those arrangements that appear compatible with environmentally friendly lifestyles. Such lifestyles, it is argued, precede in time and in ubiquity the harmful ideational and institutional provisions of modern industrial societies. Moreover, the frequent allusion of green ideologists to organicism papers over a major contested distinction in the meanings carried by that term. As a concept denoting the interdependence of the parts and the mutual support of the parts–whole structure, it can be read in ways favourable to the values of mutual responsibility expressed through emancipatory socialism. But once organicism is associated with the concept of growth, we are on another track altogether, emphasizing continuity and drawing in the core concept of preservation to reinforce the privileging of biological change as the role model for social change in general.
Preservation and sustainability are in principle entirely compatible with a controlled dynamic equilibrium of social and human development inasmuch as nature itself exhibits replaceable growth. But they can be employed to retard social change by maintaining continuity with the past and through a cautious approach to technology.24 Some ecocentrics regard conservation as deeply linked to a deindustrialization of society, which has both radical and conservative romantic undertones, and they interpret holism as providing a balanced harmony. As Sale has written: ‘The first law is that conservation, preservation, sustenance, is the central goal of the natural world—hence its ingenerate, fundamental resistance to (p.536) large‐scale structural change; the second law is that . . . nature is inherently stable.’ Greens, whether ecocentric or anthropocentric, are therefore significantly conservative in their principled opposition to progress as ‘perpetual change and continual growth . . . a false and delusory goddess if ever there was one’.25 Often conceptual adjustment is more subtle than that. ‘The crisis of life conditions on Earth’, wrote Naess, ‘could help us choose a new path with new criteria for progress, efficiency, and rational action.’26 New decontestations of these concepts allow for their retention within the framework of ecosophy—ecological harmony. Harmony has frequently been a legitimate reading of a substantive rather than instrumental rationality, as von Humboldt and Mill knew. Progress is related to ‘ultimate normative objectives’—identification and self‐realization within a whole—and efficiency refers to the ability to mesh technologies with self‐reliance.27 Notwithstanding, the abstract construction of history evoked by green ideologists rails against history as the arena of increasing human instrumental rationality. In a curious inversion of historical time, the future acts not as the open‐ended repository of unlimited human possibilities but as a self‐contained constraint upon present conduct, inhibiting technological experimentation and attempting to redirect and close the path of human history by breaking with its cultural modernist postulates. A Koselleckian horizon of expectations is employed atypically not to unlock, but to curb, the present.
If progress is decried as a manifestation of human control qua intervention in natural balances, the objection is typically conservative. Progress becomes a manifestation of the replacement of ‘true’ human and natural values with artificial ones generated by the industrialist‐modernist project. To stem it is to appeal to visions of a former rusticism decimated by the folly of human hubris. Even if green ideology is subsumed under the rubric of a utopia, the attainment of any utopia will have—by the dint of its realization—conservative implications. In talking about the conservative component in green political thought, there is no need to introduce the more overt conservative green positions that seek to conserve rural tracts for private benefit and consumption, or that appeal to the egoism of the market.28 It is simply an observation that conservative arguments cannot be completely disentangled or (p.537) excluded from all green positions. There are obviously differences between a conservatism that is also green and a green ideology that has conservative inclinations. It is again a question of the internal configurations of shared concepts. The conservative traditionalist attack on the ‘hubristic rationalist ideology’ of the neo‐liberal market, as well as on the alliance between liberal humanism and science,29 is an example of a decontestation in which a suspicion of progress and reason is associated with the importance of community as the guardians of a shared and inherited culture. Conservatives utilize the human–nature relationship, or the transgenerational bond, or the small community—all elements of green vocabulary—for the Burkean purpose of controlling the pace of change and resisting destructive innovation. They revere nature as an extra‐human force underpinning human life.30 Here green core and adjacent concepts are to be found at strategic locations in conservative morphology.
Not surprisingly, the strenuous attempts of green theorists to dissociate themselves from conservative interpretations are an act of political self‐definition, meant to erect a barrier between them and other components of conservative baggage which currently challenge a whole range of green adjacent and peripheral concepts.31 While the rationale of that analytical position may be appreciated, its claims cannot be categorically assumed on the basis of green thought‐behaviour. The frequent replacement of growth and progress with preservation apparently detaches the assessment of human development from an entirely human perspective. This implicit reference to external natural laws, as a form of anthropofugality—when human beings are deplored for their arrogant and insatiable rationality—is, however, central to conservative intellectual agendas.
(d) The Individualist Ingredient
The conservative tendency, however, is just another path, even if all green ideologists either walk along part of it, or traverse it in their own chosen route. But what happens when individualism is located close to the green core? Is the concept of holism negated, thus undermining the morphological specifications of green ideology? Discussions of animal rights, for example, have incorporated (p.538) them both into individualism as against a holistic communitarianism, and into ecologism to the extent that the human view of nature becomes more inclusionist.32 But as we have seen, contrary to what contemporary discourse appears to suggest—particularly in the USA and among opponents of liberalism—rights need not be an anti‐communitarian concept.33 To recognize the rights of animals as ‘individuals’ is not to run in the face of the argument that there exist communal ties which link animals and human beings. Just as new liberals could embrace individual rights within a framework that enhances communal values in a mutually beneficial relationship, and Marxists see true individuality as a function of its communal embeddedness, so can green ideologists argue that individualism, and the liberation of individuals from fettered and unwholesome conduct and interactions with nature, is entirely compatible with the small communities envisaged by bioregionalism. As Bahro, for example, has contended, ‘the commune is the basic social form for a new, more economical way of life . . . Economic efficiency is not negated, but subordinated to ecological demands and above all to the development of social relationships and the self‐development and self‐transformation of individuals.’34 Indeed, the green adjacent concept of self‐sufficiency may be employed for the very purpose of amalgamating selfhood with the sustenance accorded to that self by human and natural environments. These green interpretations of self‐reliance coalesce with anarchist positions.35 To be sure, an alternative interpretative strategy would be to exclude not the individualism of animal rights, but the entire issue of animal status, from the arena of green thought. To do that would be to argue that the reasons adduced by advocates of animal rights refer to animals as moral agents rather than to animals as part of the natural environment or the biosphere.
A further connection between the green ideological core and individualism is mediated through the adjacent concept of bio‐diversity. If nature is perceived as pluralist (that is, composed of innumerable forms of life, all distinctive, all with a contribution to make and a role to play in the biosphere), then the uniqueness of each species becomes a prized value and the concept of individuality is attached to species variety. As Naess maintained, diversity (p.539) enhances the potential of survival and encourages new and rich forms of life. ‘Ecologically‐inspired attitudes therefore favour diversity of human ways of life, of cultures, of occupations, of economies’,36 a pluralism in which individuality, human and non‐human, could thrive. This has some resonance with the feminist‐endorsed ‘politics of difference’, as well as with the immediacy of issue‐driven lifestyles. Of course, even if biodiversity is an empirical fact of the natural world, it still remains a construction of a reality in which diversity is the perceived organizing principle. Other constructions might have termed it species‐overload (biosuperfluity), or biodisharmony (inasmuch as species depend on consuming other species, unless that too is decontested as part of a balanced food chain). The value of pluralism thus assumes lexical priority over other competing organizing principles.
Some may assert that the individualist libertarian anarchism of green theorists such as Bookchin excludes the core concept of holism from its morphology and that, consequently, the identification of core concepts proposed earlier does not have the omnipresence that a core requires. But even Bookchin—who dissociates himself strongly from inegalitarian readings of the organic analogy—couches his arguments in terms of affinity groups and direct democracy. He employs the notion of social ecology in calling for ‘new relations between people and nature and within society itself’, and stresses mutualism and the systems that maintain life as ‘fecund, supportive interrelationships’.37 By arranging a proximity among the adjacent notions of mutuality, self‐organization, freedom‐cum‐spontaneity as the working out of human rationality, and an egalitarian abhorrence of hierarchy, Bookchin's conceptual cocktail allows for a holism interpreted as an ‘ethics of complementarity’ and as ‘unity in diversity’. But Bookchin does not escape the ideological argumentation which he rightly unmasks in others. His ideational configuration is propped up by enlisting the processes of evolution, which enable him to legitimate his analysis by appealing to nature. The introduction of conceptual certainty into this decontestation is abetted through argumentative devices such as the following contention: ‘Like the concept of “being,” these principles of social ecology require no explanation, merely verification. They are the elements of an ethical ontology, not “rules of a game” that can be changed to suit one's (p.540) personal needs.’38 In sum, green individualism may well have its genesis in liberal, socialist, or anarchist traditions, but its introduction into green political thinking readjusts its range of decontestations to serve the universe of meanings of its new ideational cores.
(e) The Ambivalence of Power
Power decontested as domination is another adjacent concept logically inferred from the green perspective on nature. That perspective insists on a relatively firm disengagement of human actors from enforcing their own value‐laden activities on nature.39 Ecocentrics in particular view human beings as perpetuating the damaging dualism of man versus nature which has justified serious interference with nature's processes and forms. In Schumacher's words, ‘modern man does not experience himself as a part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it’.40 The human devastation visited on nature is only an extension of a more general destructiveness of the species (especially its male representatives), and it coalesces on this point with Marxism as well as with feminism. It also enlists the anarchists' disavowal of power by attempting to neutralize it mainly through a face‐to‐face participatory and egalitarian community that would realize moral self‐direction. The political is diminished, not as in conservative theories out of a sense of the futility of individual rationality in the face of accumulated social wisdom, but because of the need to protect the political, comprehended as imposed rational change, from being diverted to improper functioning.
It would none the less be inaccurate to characterize green ideology as centrally opposed to the application of human power. Although in much green debate domination is positioned as a concept identified by its negativity, the elimination of power in all green ideological variants does not follow. One such instance is the anthropocentric argument; another, to be discussed below, is the green authoritarian version. For anthropocentrics, a definite divergence occurs between domination and control, a distinction which many emancipatory ecocentrics are loath to press. Eco‐socialists in particular adopt a conceptual configuration in (p.541) which the adjacent concepts to the green core are arranged so that the semantic field encompasses community, democracy, and participation in a manner compatible with control. Given a Marxist reading of the human–nature relationship, one that regards human labour and activity both as essential to the human condition, and formative of nature, it becomes imperative—as Pepper maintains—that ‘collectively, we can exercise conscious social control’ over relations with nature.41 He further asserts that eco‐socialism must have ‘a commitment to genuine bottom‐up participatory democracy’.42 The proximity of community, power, and rationality fashions a rationalism decontested not as an instrumental attitude to nature, but as social control over both human activity and (some) natural processes. Rationality underwrites the mutually supportive purposes of human growth and emancipation as well as the sustenance of a physical environment.43 Attached to community decision‐making, rationality suggests that the unborn (future generations) must also participate in the choices of current individuals. Here individuality is made to give way to communities across time. To that extent, individuals are subservient to claims of community and species.
The relationship between socialist and green themes cannot therefore be accounted for in the simplistic terms of overlap, but rather in terms of a different internal ordering and prioritization of shared concepts and notions. There are, however, important senses in which eco‐socialism remains a hybrid uneasily straddling the socialist‐green boundary, its morphology bearing insufficient family‐resemblances to green ideology. The insistence on the immediate implementation of lifestyles, of which more presently, is absent. The core concept of preservation, construed as concrete limits on growth, is embraced by eco‐socialists only in so far as it caters to the satisfaction of basic material needs and does not block an escape from poverty. Particularly in non‐Western cultures, poverty is highlighted as a function of capitalist colonization. Growth is made to give way to the more complex concept of development, prioritizing consumption central to human needs,44 while detaching the indiscriminate category of consumption from welfare. Moreover, the industrial ‘environment’ is regarded as no less problematic than the ecological. The ubiquitous adjacent notion of decentralization (p.542) is also merely an optional guest of eco‐socialist circles. Local economies coexist with ‘a vital, co‐ordinating, planning and enabling role for the state in creating sustainable development’, and this requires some measure of universalism. The state, as agent of the collective will, is retained in an adjacent position, although other variants of green ideology marginalize it at their periphery.45 ‘Anarchistic autarky’—the combination of decentralization, self‐sufficiency, and antipathy to power relations, whether or not entailing communal or individual emancipation—is rejected.46
Centralized planning is a consequence not so much of the simple espousal of a class‐based emancipatory socialism as of a complex switch of conceptual routes: the human–nature relationship is predicated on a social construction of nature and harmony achieved through ‘natural’ human‐controlled intervention; power is brought back to help furnish the green room and directly attached to communal action (referring back to holism); decentralization, while partially favoured among homogeneous groups, is seen as inadequate in solving the broader problems of social justice and therefore made to share space with its opposite, state regulation (referring back to preservation). Different conceptual patterns rather than clear dichotomous ideational divides establish the identity of all contenders for leadership among environmental and ecological creeds. Specifically, eco‐socialism reflects the strains operating on a broader ideological tradition desirous of responding to the whole range of social and political issues for which the ‘thin‐centredness’ of other variants of green ideology is inadequate. For similar reasons the German green movement can be said to display hybrid tendencies, in which the idea of participatory democracy has gravitated from an adjacent to a core position in conjunction with the other cores detailed above.47
Another instance of the retention of power in green discourse may be found in green authoritarian versions. These rest their case on some version of the sovereignty of knowledge, as befits all similar appeals to authority, or on the extreme urgency of the issue at hand. Sale takes the notion of biodiversity to a conceptual extreme by associating it with a pluralism of different political arrangements existing side by side in a fragmented and decentralized manner, to include ‘all kinds of aristocracies, oligarchies, theocracies’.48 In that case, the concept of equality becomes peripheralized (p.543) and marginalized. Another fringe variant, termed ecofascism by its opponents, preaches power, decontested as violence, against human beings who offend against certain preservationist tenets.49 All the above attempts to create ‘an ecological Brave New World’ may simply be dismissed by coining the pejorative concept of ecotyranny.50 From a different perspective, it is clear that even among democratic and communitarian ecocentrics, there must be a point where power is beneficially employed. Human intervention is necessary to protect against any damage that human beings can inflict on the core and non‐negotiable green concepts. Power (and hence politics) is not purged in any green argument; those arguments rely on severe constraints on what human beings may do with respect to nature. However much the end of the process is the complete internalization of those constraints, that would assume a human benevolence more likely to be endorsed by the anarchist subset of green ideologies.51 As with all ideologies, adjacent concepts are introduced, in different combinations, to cope with any contingent activity or idea that threatens to undermine or change the core. Since liberty is not a core component of green ideology, it may justifiably be infringed through the exercise of power in order to realize core green values. Ophuls, for instance, has written of a move from liberty to authority in order to maintain a steady‐state society.52 This however can only occur given the following proviso: to the extent that understandings of liberty are contained within the core concepts and alluded to in certain interpretations of those concepts, those understandings will have to be preserved.
Other ways in which power may be harnessed by green ideology are through the notion of stewardship, which entrusts the preservation of what is valuable in nature to human agency,53 or through environmental management, which relies in part on technological innovations to reduce environmental damage. The opposition of technocentrism to ecocentrism is itself an attempt to construct an ideological space which dichotomizes the two, and to occupy the moral high ground of debate. As O'Riordan has commented, imparting negative import to a range of adjacent (p.544) concepts: ‘Progress, efficiency, rationality, and control—these form the ideology of technocentrism that downplays the sense of wonder, reverence, and moral obligation that are the hallmarks of the ecocentric mode.’54 Such moralism absolves the intentions, if not the practices, of green ideologists from the postmodern relativism in which, because of their liking for difference and diversity, they are sometimes implicated.55 Even then, as noted above, ecocentrics are concerned with ‘low impact technology’ that encourages self‐reliance56—allowing for human control, provided the adjacent concepts are decentralization and (small) community. Only hard, destructive, resource‐consuming, and centralist technologies are excluded from the domain of green ideology. In the perimeter area of ideological practice such dichotomies may not be evident. Weale has drawn attention to the ‘ideology of ecological modernization’ which sees environmental protection as a source for future economic growth.57
(f) The Green Perimeter
Why do different green configurations emerge around a common core? A variety of cultural constraints may account for the specific logical path chosen within the semantic field: historical traditions (for instance, anarchist, socialist, radical, extra‐parliamentary), national features (for instance, cultural romanticism, the preponderance of agriculture, or, conversely, urban decay, a large intelligentsia, the role of fauna and flora in mythologies and religions), and, not least in the green case, perimeter‐driven crises. Green ideologies are distinctly characterized by the high profile accorded to their perimeter notions and views, which consciously identify facts and events as ideologically significant. The latter are incorporated into the ideological family by tracing a path back from the specific perimeter to the more general core and interpreting the latter in the light of the former. Nuclear disasters or tests (e.g. Chernobyl or the Rainbow Warrior affair), oil spillages (e.g. Exxon Valdese), chemical pollution (e.g. Bhopal), famines in the South (e.g. Ethiopia) are instances of the crisis‐driven perimeter notions shaped by the core and reacting back on it. Another prominent idea, pacifism, may both be crisis‐driven by the outburst or threat (p.545) of war, and assimilate a tradition that, historically, has united many greens with other dissenting or radical ideologies.
The human–nature relationship, preservation, and the concept of holism may loosely help categorize such events as undesirable, if not catastrophic. But the resulting feedback process is complex. Agreement on the perimeter concepts and notions (their identification as significant, their condemnation in terms of ethical values, the need for rapid action to prevent their harmful results and their reoccurrence) need not signify an agreed‐upon general structure of argument. Identical perimeter notions may still be linked in diverging paths back to the core (as well as to cores entirely alien to green thinking). For example, the perceived threat from nuclear weapons and pollutant chemicals relates not merely to current human and non‐human life but to the forms and possibility of human and non‐human life in the future, thus enlisting the concept of social responsibility towards posterity. It may appeal to ecofascist tendencies in its attempt to preserve the green core, or shun the use of force and encourage a rapid, self‐sufficient, detachment from advanced technology through a rejection of industrial societies. Different forms of democracy may be employed for these divergent ideological conclusions or democracy may be ditched altogether. The state may be seen as the only means through which environmental disasters can be avoided, or abandoned as the agent mainly responsible for them.
The role of perimeter concepts is particularly important in green ideology for two reasons. First, green party internal organization and ideological discipline are insufficient (sometimes deliberately so, as in the case of the German fundamentalists) to carve out anything like a mainstream green position.58 Second, as Raschke has noted, what seem to be missing in green ideological structure are the debates mediating between concrete issues and fundamental principles that play so important a part in other ideological families. Green ideologists have not come to grips with the kind of nature they want, the boundaries of social intervention in nature, or with the contours of a green utopia.59 In the terminology of this study, the adjacent concepts exist but their intensions and decontestations are underdeveloped. Here we return to the fourth green core concept: the concrete and immediate implementation of human lifestyles. Green ideology is thin‐centred both in terms of the cohesive intricacy of the ideological product and in terms of the spread of, and absence of unifying system among, its ideological (p.546) producers. For better or for worse, it lacks a Mill, Marx, or Freud, a central intellectual agenda, or powerful philosophical or theoretical framework, from which to evolve or against which to focus sharply. Its perimeter‐driven morphology is centrifugal, frequently more defined at the concrete periphery than elsewhere. That has been seen as a ‘greater random element in the structure of attitudes to policy’.60 More accurately, it could account for the multiplicity of paths from the perimeter to the core.
One explanation may lie in the fact that, unlike ideologies such as liberalism which grew gradually over time, green ideology is a ‘fast‐ideology’ product. A late twentieth‐century ideology that relies heavily on external temporal and spatial events to shape its theoretical conceptualizations is unavoidably a child of the mass media.61 The resultant temporalized and spatialized responses of green ideology are disjunctured. Unlike conservatism, it possesses a constraining core of substantive concepts that are not a mere function of attitudes to change and the prodding of circumstance. But it is weakly connected to that core, and the felt urgency and apocalyptic tone62 of the green case necessitates an association with the instant ‘creativity’ of the media world. This multiplies and disorganizes its construction as an ideology. It is hence more pluralist, decentralized, and ‘democratic’ or popular, but less intellectually coherent. It also attests—unintentionally and in line with the communitarianism of many of its adherents—to ideology as social product. It is a loose creation of partially connected discourses, neither the creation of ‘Great Men/Women’ nor generated by a close‐knit community. The cultural constraints applied to its possible logical decontestations are too diverse to establish an integrated political language, particularly in view of the weak hold its theoretical core has over its morphology.
The complement of the movement from perimeter back to centre is the emphasis on prompt action. The concreteness of perimeter notions needs to be matched not with contemplation but with deeds and distinctive practices through example. Lifestyle becomes the very incorporation of Weltanschauung, not its laboriously worked out consequence. That is why it can claim core status in the green ideological configuration. German Greens refer to this tendency as Sofortismus, but it is evident in green ideology outside Germany too.63 This immediacy relates to the ‘post‐material’ switch away (p.547) from consumerism and towards alternative conceptions of the quality of life which have typified the new social movements. It may equally be expressed in private and public fora, the private act being pregnant with social significance. The feminist slogan ‘the personal is the political’ has been significantly reinterpreted by attaching it not to the recognition of the political nature of spheres of human activity hitherto considered extra‐political and private, but to the insistence on the importance of individual grass‐roots action.64 Indeed, whereas green thinkers regard immediacy as a form of personally acting out a lifestyle, feminism is keen to make the connections between immediacy as concreteness and the development of women's consciousness through common experiences that have forged them as women.
The centrality of lifestyle in green ideology is inadequately linked to the other core concepts and has not contributed to firming up a more cohesive structure.65 Cohesion is difficult to achieve, if a ground ideological principle is the localism, spontaneity, and pluralism of personal and group example. Even if the concepts of emancipation and choice run through all of these practices, the specific forms of those concepts will vary, and they cannot account on their own for a specifically green set of arguments. And even if there may be broad agreement among greens on the identification of ecological crises, a diverse range of reactions to them is encouraged by the emphasis green theory accords to perimeter‐located practice.
Immediacy in time is paralleled by immediacy in space. The well‐known green slogan ‘think globally, act locally’ is a case in point. This organicist statement meshes the universalism of environmental issues and the disrespect for humanly contrived boundaries with the possibility of their local solution. Whatever the intentions of the slogan, its implicit meanings raise tensions. If the locus of green action is conceived as the bioregion, and if direct democracy and participation lead to the extolling of the decentralized small group, it could be assumed that green issues needed no international co‐ordination. The health of the parts would be sufficient to ensure the flourishing of the whole. Such a view is agnostic with respect to the unequal global distribution of scarce ecological, as well as economic and social, resources, and with respect to the ensuing arrangements necessary to secure whatever (p.548) view of global social justice societies may wish to promote. Immediacy in space can offer on its own no solution to the North–South problems that currently appear on political agendas.
(g) Eco‐Feminism: A Distinct Position?
Finally, what of eco‐feminism and its place in the green ideological family? The feminist core concepts—the centrality of gender to politics, the problematics of gender‐based social relations, and the power‐nexus which oppresses women—as well as adjacent concepts such as affirmative action (towards emancipation), responsible technology, or the personalization of politics, link up with some of the precepts of green ideology. Like socialism, feminism does not necessarily align itself with green political thinking. Eco‐feminism is however a hybrid form. One of its features is its specific interpretation of the core green concept of the human–nature relationship. By decontesting the traditional depiction of women as analogous to the traditional views of nature, the essence of nature and that of women is brought together. If women have suffered as a result of being constructed through instrumental (male) anthropocentric understandings, and if they have been at the receiving end of a hierarchy of patriarchal power relationships, their emancipation lies partly in adopting the correspondingly emancipated conception of nature offered by green ideology.
The eco‐feminist view of women thus constitutes a variant of the difference conception of women, accentuating their specific characteristics. Nature as mother earth is easily identified with the nurturing role of women as mothers. Noting the role of the ecology movement in reawakening interest in the values of the pre‐modern world, Merchant has contended that ‘the image of the earth as a living organism and nurturing mother had served as a cultural constraint restricting the actions of human beings’.66 Furthermore, the dualism typifying male–female relationships finds its parallel in the human–nature dualism, and the domination of nature by human beings matches that of the oppression of women by men. Not only the human–nature relationship but a strong holism are clearly discernible in these positions. Sustainability, too, is catered for through an eco‐feminist emphasis on the role of women in ‘developing survival strategies and fighting against the threat to their children’ caused by damaged environments.67 As for (p.549) adjacent green concepts, these may present women's work—in non‐industrialized and hence greener societies—as an expertise in biodiversity and conservation,68 and thus emphasize the different input of women into both the natural and social environments. Rationality continues its marginalization in contrast to its liberal and socialist ideological hosts, and the theme of female spirituality is specifically enlisted to counterbalance a human instrumentalism that is now, additionally, decontested as male.69
One limit of eco‐feminism consists in the underplaying of social forms of patriarchy that concern feminists more broadly. Thus social and economic forms of power are marginalized in the eco‐feminist conceptual configuration. Another limit consists in the attachment of the concept of patriarchy to core green concepts, which are then defined by such proximity. As Eckersley has remarked, ‘patriarchy may be seen as not the root of the ecological crisis but rather as a subset of a more general problem of philosophical dualism that has pervaded Western thought’.70 Here patriarchy is simply a special case of the negation of holism. The internal conceptual patterns of eco‐feminism, both in its core‐construction and in a range of culturally adjusted adjacent possibilities, display hybrid features that prevent their neat absorption into mainstream feminism. Nor can green ideology, towards which eco‐feminism displays greater affinity, easily contain the relatively new core concept of patriarchy without forfeiting some of the configurations it has attempted to embrace. In that sense eco‐feminism is not even a tributary of ‘a general ecocentric emancipatory framework’, as Eckersley suggests, nor does it nest within that framework.71 On the basis of the innate pluralism of conceptual meaning, and in order to avoid a heuristically unmanageable fragmentation of ideologies into increasingly splintered subgroups, our understanding of ideological morphology would have to endorse Evans's view that ‘it makes sense . . . to speak . . . not of ecofeminists, but of ecologists who are feminists too’.72 This is evident in Mellor's summing up of the attributes of a feminist green socialism:
Socialism, feminism, and green thought lead here parallel lives as amalgams of the separate cores of other ideological families. The proximity of these ideational packages does not lead to total integration, though it will mutually check the conceptual pluralism each is capable of expressing on its own. What remains unclear is whether this treble combination can be negotiated without determining lexical priority among these distinct ideological languages and, if so, which should be prior to which. Any solution to that issue will inevitably produce a different ideological compound.
Feminist, because it acknowledges the centrality of women's life‐producing and life‐sustaining work and focuses upon the predominance of men in destructive institutions. Green, because it argues that we should act and think globally to regain a balance between the needs of humanity (p.550) and the ability of the planet to sustain them. Socialist, because it recognises the rights of all peoples of the world to live in a socially just and equitable community.73
If feminism is morphologically incomplete as an ideology by its structural exclusion or neglect of political concepts that play major roles in political language, this stricture is even more applicable to green ideology. In its present stage of development, green ideology still lacks the ideational complexity—irrespective of substantive message—to rank it as equal to the main ideological families. Whether this is a mark of youth or a congenital defect is too early to say. Ideologies require both time and extensive implementation in action for a cogent assessment of their features to be made.
(3) A minority view would be to apply technological optimism to a conviction that green issues are soluble, but that is a controversial borderline case for green ideology.
(5) On the distinction between limits to the actual means to growth and the post‐materialist moral desire to curb growth, see J. Barry, ‘The Limits of the Shallow and the Deep: Green Politics, Philosophy, and Praxis’, Environmental Politics, 3 (1994), 376.
(6) J. Raschke, Die Grünen: Wie sie wurden, was sie sind (Cologne, 1993), 55, 62. Raschke refers to this in the singular as the absence of an archemedal point, although this underplays the plurality of the core.
(7) H. Wiesenthal, in Raschke, Die Grünen, 129.
(10) Ibid. 59.
(13) See A. Dobson, Green Political Thought (London, 1990), 63–4. Weak anthropocentrism invokes the inevitable view of the world through human constructs; strong anthropocentrism is an instrumental regard for nature as a means to realizing human purposes.
(15) See Eckersley, Environmentalism, 185.
(18) Eckersley, Environmentalism, 28.
(22) Again, this does not distinguish all ecocentrics from all anthropocentrics.
(23) Cp. Raschke, Die Grünen, 48–9.
(24) Cp. Eckersley, Environmentalism, 21.
(26) Naess, Ecology, 26.
(27) Ibid. 98, 102, 171–81.
(28) As in Nimbyism—the ‘not in my back yard’ movement to resist transport policies which could devalue private property.
(30) Ibid. 136–7, 176–7.
(31) Cp. Eckersley, Environmentalism, 30.
(35) See A. Carter, ‘Towards a Green Political Theory’, in Dobson and Lucardie (eds.), Politics of Nature, 40, and Pepper, Eco‐Socialism, 186.
(36) A. Naess in Dobson (ed.), Green Reader, 244.
(38) Bookchin, Which Way, 74.
(39) These connections and dualisms are culturally overridden, or ruled out, in many non‐Western societies.
(42) Pepper, ‘Anthropocentrism’, 444.
(43) Ibid. 429.
(44) Ryle, Ecology and Socialism, 64, 73–4.
(45) Ryle, Ecology and Socialism, 60.
(46) Pepper, ‘Anthropocentrism, Humanism and Eco‐Socialism’, 446.
(48) Sale in Dobson (ed.), Green Reader, 81.
(51) Cp. Goodin, Green Political Theory, 50, 152.
(54) O'Riordan, Environmentalism, 11.
(55) Cp. Dobson, Green Political Thought, 158.
(56) O'Riordan, Environmentalism, 1; Naess, Ecology, 98.
(58) See Young, Politics, 23, 34–5.
(59) Raschke, Die Grünen, 77.
(60) Bennie et al., Green Politics Three, 227–8.
(61) Cp. Raschke, Die Grünen, 131.
(62) Dobson, Green Political Thought, 22.
(63) Cp. Raschke, Die Grünen, 46.
(64) For an example of this reconstruction see Bennie et al., Green Politics Three, 222.
(65) Raschke, Die Grünen, 88–9.
(68) Ibid. 164–5.
(69) Ibid. 17–19; J. Evans, ‘Ecofeminism and the Politics of the Engendered Self’, in Dobson and Lucardie (eds.), Politics of Nature, 182.
(70) Eckersley, Environmentalism, 69.
(71) Ibid. 70.
(72) Evans, ‘Ecofeminism’, 187.