Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

The Transnational State, Neoliberalism and Environmental Education Policy: A New Zealand Case Study

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

The Transnational State, Neoliberalism and Environmental Education Policy: A New Zealand Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Sustainable development (SD) originated in third world politics and is based on radical deep green and red-green (Marxist) environmental thought (Carruthers, 2005; Tulloch & Neilson, 2014). However, SD has been wrenched from its location in radical anti-globalization third world politics and redefined through a series of international summits as part of a broader developmental agenda. It promises to address a multitude of problems including environmental degradation, uneven development, poverty, disempowerment of indigenous peoples, and war. While there are diverse interpretations of SD, the dominant reading is that which has been shaped by Agenda 21 (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), 1992). Agenda 21 was the document that arose from the 1992 Rio de Janeiro (UNCED), 1992) conference (also called the Earth Summit). Paradoxically, the economic agenda underpinning Agenda 21 is based on the expansion of global markets and insists on continued economic growth (Doyle, 1998). The integration of environmental concerns with economic and social aspects has been critiqued at various levels, not least of which is the push for redesigning the economy in line with neoliberal logic and free market globalization (Tulloch & Neilson, 2014).

The United Nations (UN) has been particularly instrumental in the development of Sustainable Development Discourse (SDD), and its dissemination in policy at various levels from global through to local. In its current form, SDD stresses the integration of social and economic global capitalist development goals with environmental concerns. Sustainable development discourse (SDD) is now a neoliberalized explanatory framework by which all dominant forms of environmental discourse are produced and reproduced (Dryzek, 2005). It applies neoliberal principles of privatization, commodification and marketization to the environment, broadly conceived in anthropocentric terms as natural resources and ecosystem services.

The anti-capitalist agenda and "limits-to-growth" logic of earlier SD proponents originating in third world politics of the 1970s has been pushed to the margins by this pro-neoliberal reworking of the concept. The primary focus is now on decontextualized behaviors and values of individuals and social groups. People's values and behaviors are, of course, important in the transition to a genuinely sustainable world. This is why environmental education (EE) and education for sustainability (EfS) both stress citizenship education involving values development and advocate for intergenerational behavioral change. However, this paper argues that SDD fails to address two important points: a) the historical materialist dialectic between the capitalist economy and the formation of particular behavioral and value orientations and b) an analysis of the genesis of environmental/social and economic crises as lying within globalized neoliberal capitalism itself. Conversely, the neoliberal goals of economic growth and open markets have been promoted since the Rio Summit in 1992 as the solution to rather than the cause of our environmental crisis (Tulloch & Neilson, 2014).

It should be evident from the above discussion that an analysis of local EE policy needs to be situated within a critical understanding of its embeddedness in wider global processes of capitalist expansion. Thus, the neo-Gramscian perspective of this paper considers the emergence of SDD in relation to a historically specific configuration of the capitalism-state-society complex (Cox, 1981). The current age of globalization of capital is integrally connected with the transnationalization of the state (Robinson, 2001). Accordingly, the state is not a form of immutable geo-political dynamics or in Weberian terms a "relatively independent national actor driven by geo-political competition with other states" (Robinson, 2001, p. 190). Rather, boundaries are transcended as a new economic order of global rather than national circuits of accumulation emerges. …

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