Academic journal article American Academic & Scholarly Research Journal

From Theory to Practice: Changing Conceptions of Hegemony to Hegemony Analysis in Environmental Governance

Academic journal article American Academic & Scholarly Research Journal

From Theory to Practice: Changing Conceptions of Hegemony to Hegemony Analysis in Environmental Governance

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper illustrates the theoretical development of 'hegemony', which emerged as a slogan during the Russian Social-Democratic movement from the late 1890s, then informed by Antonio Gramsci's theory, and later critically developed by Robert Cox from the dimension of international relation, and reconceptualized by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe with discourse analysis, and recently broadened by David Levy to environmental governance domain. Since environmental issue has been a new threat to hegemony, the paper focuses on the practical perspective sensitive to the context of China, and discusses changes of hegemony among government, corporation and non-governmental organization (NGO) in the development of environmental governance in China. With the social contexts of development in China after the establishment of the New China in 1949, based on a timeline, it concludes that the feature of hegemony in the developmen t of China's environmental governance has changed from highly prescriptive planning in the planned economy period to government supervision in the market economy period, then towards tripartite cooperation recently.

Keywords: Hegemony, environmental governance, China, state, business, NGO.

1 INTRODUCTION

The term 'hegemony' firstly emerged as a slogan during the Russian Social-Democratic movement from the late 1890s to 1917 to describe leading force of the working class fightin g for democracy in the earlier Marxist theory (Anderson, 1976; Hoffman, 1984). Then Antonio Gramsci's conception of hegemony as not only a unison of economic and political aims but also intellectual and moral unity, in which civil society stands between th e economic structure and the state, made the notion of hegemony as an explicit concept in Marxist social theory (Gramsci, 1971; Adamson, 1980; Mouffe, 1979). In the early 1980, Robert Cox merged mainstream international relation approaches with hegemony, which is related to the emergence of neo-Gramscian perspective, although such a theoretical extension faced many critiques (Cox, 1981 & 1983; Germain and Kenny, 1998; Bieler and Morton, 2004). Then post-Marxists Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe incorporated a discourse analysis approach to illustrate the new conception of hegemony as a form of social relation in which ideology is fundamental, and developed the neo-Gramscian discourse theory to a new level (Laclau and Mouffe, 2001; Boucher, 2008). In the past twenty years, with deepening of industrialization globally, emergence of environmental pollution as a global problem and a crisis of governance, has increasingly threatened the modern hegemony. David Levy introduced a neo- Gramscian theoretical approach to environmental governance, involving state agencies, business and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in contestation over structures and process environmental governance (Levy, 2005 & 2008; Levy and Egan, 2003; Levy and Newell, 2002 & 2005).

In terms of illustrations on theoretical development of the term hegemony, this paper focuses on hegemony changing in the development of environmental governance in China from the New China established in 1949 to now, within a neo-Gramscian frame. In the first timeline stage, from the 1950s to 1980s, China has experienced a long period of planned economy, in which the whole society was under highly prescriptive central planning with the central guideline of extensive economic growth to maximize industrial outputs. Then after the 1978 Reform, China has gradually transformed to a market-oriented economy with intensive economic growth, and relaxed party control over the economy, society and ultimately over public discourse. In recent ten years, after the 'Scientific Development Concept' proposed by the Hu Jintao government in 2003 in China, pursuing a balance between economic growth and sustainable development become the new theme nowadays in China. During the past six decades, the Chinese government, corporation and NGO have played different roles in the development of China's environmental governance system. …

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