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Emancipation writ large : toward an ecocentric green political theory

Eckersley, Robyn,1958- 1990 , 'Emancipation writ large : toward an ecocentric green political theory', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The central objective of this inquiry is to outline an ecocentric Green
political theory in the course of a critical evaluation of the principal ideas that form
the current melting pot of Green political thought. In Part I, I set the stage for this
inquiry by providing a general overview of the emergence and development of
ecopolitical thought over the last three decades in order to locate and distinguish
Green political theory from other kinds of ecopolitical thought (i.e., Green political
theory is seen as a subset of ecopolitical thought in general). I identify three major
themes in the development of ecopolitical thought over the last three decades - a
participatory theme, a survivalist theme, and an emancipatory theme. I argue that
whereas other kinds of ecopolitical thought have tended to emphasize the themes of
democratic participation and/or human survival, Green political theory can be
characterized by its concern to reconcile these themes through the more
encompassing theme of emancipation. I then divide Green or emancipatory
ecopolitical theory into an anthropocentric and an ecocentric stream. The first stream
is principally concerned with developing an ecologically safe and sustainable society
that offers new opportunities for human emancipation and fulfilment. The second
stream pursues these same goals within the context of a broader concept of
emancipation that also respects the freedom of the nonhuman world to unfold in its
many diverse ways. I argue that it is this latter ecocentric stream that offers the most
comprehensive and promising framework for social and ecological emancipation.
In the remainder of Part I, I articulate and defend an ecocentric philosophical
perspective in the course of a discussion of some of the central debates and arguments
that have been advanced in the emerging domain of environmental philosophy. I also
show how the anthropocentric/ecocentric cleavage may be used to shed light on the
normative debates that are currently taking place within the international Green
In Part 11, I articulate, critically examine, and evaluate the principal
emancipatory (i.e., Green) currents of ecopolitical thought. These currents are
identified under the broad, generic names of Orthodox eco-Marxism, humanist
eco-Marxism (including Critical Theory), democratic ecosocialism, ecoanarchism,
and ecofeminism (liberal and conservative responses to the ecological crisis are dealt
with summarily in Chapter 1). My principal concern is to determine the extent to
which these new syntheses of ecological and political thought are anthropocentric or
ecocentric, and to defend an ecocentric orientation. I also assess the internal
theoretical coherence of each synthesis, critically examine theoretical claims
concerning the relationship between social domination and the domination of the
nonhuman world, and draw out the political priorities that flow from these theoretical
I conclude that, in terms of long term vision and general orientation,
ecofeminism and ecoanarchism (excepting, to some extent, social ecology) are the
most ecocentric of the Green theories examined whereas orthodox eco-Marxism,
humanist eco-Marxism (including Critical Theory), and democratic ecosocialism are
anthropocentric (albeit in decreasing degrees respectively). Notwithstanding this
finding, I argue that the anti-statist political framework defended by ecoanarchism
(and implicitly supported by ecofeminism) is neither the only nor the most
appropriate political framework for the realization of ecocentric goals in the
foreseeable future in view of the urgency of the ecological crisis and the need for
international eco-diplomacy. Instead I argue that the democratic ecosocialist case for
the retention of a democratic state as an "enabling institution" to promote social
justice and ecological integrity is more likely, in practice, to realize ecocentric goals
than the ecoanarchist case - notwithstanding the fact that democratic ecosocialism has
so far been defended only on anthropocentric grounds. I conclude that a much revised
version of democratic ecosocialism that rests on ecocentric foundations provides the
most comprehensive and defensible political frameworkfor emancipation writ large.
However, the success of this framework will depend on the cultivation of an appropriate ecocentric emancipatory cithan and in this respect ecoanarchism and
ecofeminism will have a vital and continuing role to play.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Eckersley, Robyn,1958-
Keywords: Green movement, Ecology
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1990 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1991. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 388-426)

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