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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - Green political thought

from PART 1 - Theory: thinking about the environment


Key issues

◗ Is there a distinct and coherent green ideology?

◗ What would a ‘green’ society look like?

◗ What are the distinguishing principles of green political theory?

◗ How have traditional political doctrines responded to the green challenge?

◗ Where does green politics lie on the left–right spectrum?

Is ecologism a distinct and coherent ideology? Do the two core ideas underpinning the ecological imperative – the need to reassess human–nature relations (discussed in Chapter 2) and the existence of ecological limits to growth – supplemented by a set of principles drawn from other doctrines, justify talking about ecologism as an ideology in its own right? If so, can it accommodate the broad range of competing perspectives and discourses within contemporary green political thought?

This chapter has two parts. The first part examines the central themes of ecologism. It starts by assessing the significance of the ‘limits to growth’ thesis as a green principle. As all ideologies need a vision of the ‘good society’ different from our own, the next section outlines the main features that characterise the dominant model of a green sustainable society. The following sections assess whether the driving idea behind green politics – the ecological imperative that we need to save the planet – requires that a green polity be built on the core political principles that characterise most versions of a green society, namely grassroots democracy, decentralisation, social justice and non-violence. The second part of the chapter focuses on the way traditional political doctrines have responded to the environmental challenge.

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