Reassessing Political Ideologies: The Durability of Dissent

By Michael Freeden | Go to book overview
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Green political perspectives at the dawn of the twenty-first century

James Meadowcroft

As a well-defined ideological current, the green perspective is comparatively new. For most of the twentieth century, variants of liberalism, socialism and conservatism (combined with admixtures of nationalism), and for a brief period fascism, occupied the centre of the political stage. Momentous developments of the last hundred years - including the world wars, the ending of the colonial era, the rise and fall of the Soviet experiment, the genesis of the welfare state, and the punctuated diffusion of democratic mechanisms - have been closely associated with conflict, but also with cross-fertilization and hybridization, among these major traditions. Compared with feminism, or even with such manifestations of late-twentieth-century ideological creativity as the new right, religious fundamentalisms and emergent nationalisms, the immediate impact of the greens may appear modest. Yet in the few decades of its existence the green perspective has made an initial mark, and it seems likely that it will assume a more significant role in the future.

The green perspective

Like other ideological trends, greens are characterized by diversity; and the green perspective is more a family of related approaches than a single integrated viewpoint. Contributions to this emergent tradition of political argument - which offers a biting critique of modern society, particularly with respect to the damage industrial civilization is inflicting upon the planetary ecosphere - have been made by environmental campaigners, anti-nuclear and animal-rights activists, political organizers and radical journalists, environmental philosophers and academic theorists. 1 Ministers in the German coalition government, 'monkey-wrenchers' fighting to preserve the American wilderness, and advocates of alternative technologies and lifestyles can all claim to identify with the green political project. And 'social ecology', 'eco-socialism', 'bio-regionalism', 'eco-feminism', and 'deep ecology' are just some of the variants and hybrids associated with green politics. 2 Yet despite the diversity, there are some things greens share. 3

At the heart of the green perspective lies a profound preoccupation with the relationship between human beings and the natural world. Pollution of air, water and land, the profligate consumption of resources, the destruction of natural


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Reassessing Political Ideologies: The Durability of Dissent


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