The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process

The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process

The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process

The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process

Synopsis

Dr Hajer's path-breaking study opens the way for a better understanding of the environmental conflict, showing how language can be seen to shape our view of what environmental politics is really about and how those perceptions can differ between countries. The author identifies the emergence and increasing political importance of 'ecological modernization' as a new concept in the language of environmental politics. This concept, which has come to replace the antagonistic debates of the 1970s, stresses the opportunities of environmental policy formodernizing the economy and stimulating the technological innovation. Combining abstract social theory with detailed empirical analysis, Martin Hajer illustrates the social and political dynamics of ecological modernization in a detailed analysis of the acid rain controversies in Great Britain and the Netherlands. He concludes by reflecting on the institutionalchallenge of the environmental politics in the years to come.

Excerpt

Over the past few years 'the ecological crisis' has come to occupy a permanent place on the public agenda. It has become an issue whose importance goes without saying. One only has to refer to 'the ecological crisis' and everybody nods meaningfully as if one knows what is being referred to. The ecological crisis, so the consensus seems to be, has to be faced. Yet somehow cracks are beginning to emerge in the picture of a new ecological consensus. Here the UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 played a role of great symbolic importance. The global conference was meant to be the culmination of the integrative effort and was to mark the start of a new ecological era for which Agenda 21 was to point the way. As many commentators have pointed out since then, if anything Rio in actual fact showed the many conceptual holes and political ambivalences that had slumbered beneath the consensus over the need to arrive at some sort of sustainable development. Over time these differences have only become more obvious. This comes out in the struggle over the meaning of the notion of the term 'sustainable development', which functioned as the linchpin in the creation of the new consensus. As Brooks (1992 : 408) has pointed out, since the Brundtland Report (re-) introduced the concept in 1987, at least forty working definitions of sustainable development have appeared. Consequently many different projects are furthered under the flag of sustainable development and quarrels have started to emerge about what sustainable development really is.

Most analyses embark on an explanation of the political interests that stand in the way of a real 'ecological turn'. This book aims to enhance our insight into environmental politics by raising a different sort of question. It argues that, if examined closely, environmental discourse is fragmented and contradictory. Environmental discourse is an astonishing collection of claims and concerns brought together by a great variety of actors. Yet somehow we distil seemingly coherent problems out of this jamboree of

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