Academic journal article Environmental Values

Should Ecological Citizenship Advocates Praise the Green State?

Academic journal article Environmental Values

Should Ecological Citizenship Advocates Praise the Green State?

Article excerpt


This article focuses on the relationship between ecological citizenship and the green state and asks whether it is a productive one. First, I examine the political system of an ideal ecological state to assess how it could encourage ecological citizenship. Then, I turn my attention to how eco-states might emerge and be sustained, and the obstacles they may encounter. I show that the green state has a strong potential to develop ecological citizenship, albeit with a rather narrow focus on its deliberative dimension. However, my main point is that this potential may not be fully realised because the green state is grounded on a postliberal ecological democracy and an ecologically modernised economy. Since the green state cannot avoid the problems arising from the nexus between liberal democracy and capitalism, I claim that it is not the most appropriate locus for the cultivation of ecological citizenship.


Ecological citizenship, green state, ecological democracy, liberalism, capitalism


The idea of an environmental account of citizenship emerged within the policy discourse before it entered the academic field of green political theory (Bell, 2005). In fact the term 'environmental citizenship' was first used in 1990 by a state body, Environment Canada (Szerszynski, 2006). The literature on ecological citizenship often presumes that states are, to a certain extent, responsible for creating the conditions and implementing the mechanisms for its practice (MacGregor and Pardoe, 2005; Dobson and Valencia Saiz, 2005). Partly because most theorists of green citizenship live in liberal democratic states, partly because it is thought that any transformation of the political order will emerge from existing institutions, attempts have been made to demonstrate that current neoliberal states can and should encourage more sustainable forms of citizenship. There is a tendency to argue that states' resources and steering capacity can be used to promote green behaviours as a route to increasing ecological citizenship, for instance, using tools like legal and monetary incentives (Connelly, 2006; Barry, 2006), substantive and procedural rights (Bell, 2005; Hailwood, 2005) or school education (Barry, 2006; Hailwood, 2005; Dobson, 2003).

Despite the potential that state bodies have for the promotion of green views of citizenship, actually existing states are still far from endorsing a politics of environmental protection. State organisations are implicated in different ways in the process of ecological destruction. Political centralisation, bureaucracy, poverty, militarisation and the pursuit of economic growth all have devastating consequences for the natural world. This scenario makes it difficult for citizens to assume responsibility for their environments and constitutes an obstacle to ecological citizenship.

In the face of this, it has been argued that the promotion of ecological citizenship should be approached together with the ecological transformation of the state (Barry, 2006, 1999; Eckersley, 2004; Christoff, 2005, 1996). This position is consistent with the evolution in attitudes towards the state that has taken place within green political theory over the past twenty years. Although greens long held a conception of the state as being inherently authoritarian and responsible for the unsustainable socio-political reality, today there is wide consensus that rejecting the state would limit the options available in the quest for the environment (Paterson et al., 2006; Barry and Eckersley, 2005b; Eckersley, 2004; Hailwood, 2004; Barry, 1999). As a consequence, anti-statist ideas have been diluted within less radical approaches and gradually replaced by a growing concern for the concept of the green state. (1)

The statist turn has had some implications for ecological citizenship and its promotion. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.