The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology is a major interdisciplinary reference work on the developing field of environmental sociology. It consists of over 30 specially commissioned essays by leading scholars from around the world. These original essays examine a wide range of environmental issues in the developed and developing world as well as formerly centrally planned countries to present a truly international perspective. Together they analyse theory and concepts, philosophical and empirical issues as well as offering practical policy advice.
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Chapter 20: Politics and the environment in the UK and beyond

Tim S. Gray


Tim S. Gray THE POLITICAL DISTINCTIVENESS OF ENVIRONMENTALISM In seeking to understand the connection between politics and the environment, the first question to be answered is whether there is anything distinctive about environmentalism as a political ideology. Is environmentalism a political ideology in its own right, distinct from all other political ideologies, or is it simply an added-on extra doctrine that can be yoked to virtually any political ideology? The answer to this question depends on whether a radical or a reformist perspective is taken on environmentalism. Radical environmentalism (dark green; ecologism or ecocentrism) is an autonomous political ideology, independent of all other political ideologies. Reformist environmentalism (light green), on the other hand, can be easily absorbed into other political ideologies. Let us consider these two forms of environmentalism in turn. Radical environmentalism, as Dobson points out, takes as its starting point the notion that ‘the Good Life is much different from the one we presently lead’, and that in order to achieve it, we must: restructure the whole of political, social and economic life ... It is in this sense that ecologism can properly take its place alongside other political ideologies; in common with other political ideologies it has things to say across the whole range of political, social and economic life. Ecologism cannot be seen as simply embedded in other political ideologies - it is a political ideology in its own right. (Dobson, 1990: 3) In its vision of the good life, uniquely among political ideologies, ecologism dethrones humanity...

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