Green ideology

Green ideology is new, but it is a new variant within the traditions of the left rather than an alternative to the left/right divide. As we saw in the previous chapter, the green movement emerged as a consequence of changes in the nature of the western left in the late 1960s and still has its roots in the traditions of the left. Greens share a commitment to ecological rationality, egalitarianism and grassroots democracy, the latter two placing them on the left and shaping their view of ecology. None of these three commitments has a priori privileged status in relation to the others and greens seek to achieve a balance between all three. Thus green ideology is not based primarily on ecology, although ecological rationality would never be ignored or rejected as unimportant by greens. Moreover, whenever some greens have tried to establish the superiority of ecology over other green concerns this has caused divisions in green movements, and it is those who want to maintain the three-fold combination of values that have remained within the main green groups. This view of green ideology will be elaborated and defended in the first part of the chapter. The focus here is on the content of green ideology. In the second part of the chapter the consequences of this view of green ideology for how we understand the relationship between green ideology and action will be analysed.

Insofar as this book is concerned with green ideology it approaches ideology as a shifting product of social movement action. Social movement ideology has to be analysed as dynamic; it develops dialectically in debates with opponents and in response to conflicts over ideas within the movement. Green ideology developed through the debates among critical communities of activists and intellectuals, linked by network ties that cut across formal organisational links. It was influenced by the real and anticipated reactions of opponents, and by the learning experience of activists and intellectuals in previous movements and later in the green movement. There is therefore no single point at which we can say green ideology was created, rather it emerged as the movement developed from the late 1960s onwards. The three principles of ecological rationality, egal-itarianism and grassroots democracy gradually became more evident as the framework within which green discourse was organised. This more settled framework has developed in response to the need to defend and extend the arguments made by movement groups, and also as greens have faced the problem of who they can work with in practice. This has led some to leave the movement, when they cannot accept this framework, and has also shaped how greens view potential political allies.

Political theorists have carried out much work on these questions, but their focus has been primarily on how green ideology is analytically distinct from other ideologies. Rather than revisit this debate I want instead to change the focus from distinctiveness to internal coherence. This means developing a broader descriptive accuracy framework for green ideology than that developed by most political theorists (Barry 1999; Dobson 2000; Eckersley 1992; Hayward 1995). And, this differs from those who see green ideology in terms of ecologism in that the status of ecology is not privileged above other issues in explaining how greens view the world, although ecologism is one variant of this broader green ideology. Ecological rationality is an essential part of green ideology, and is its most distinctive feature, but it is not enough in itself to explain the views of sufficient numbers of greens. The aim then is to find a version of green ideology that can accommodate as many green activists as possible.

It is in fact not easy to do this. There have been some surveys of the values of green party activists (Bennie, Rudig and Franklin 1995; Lucardie, Voerman and van Schuur 1993) which support the view that greens are egalitarian, committed to ecological rationality and grassroots democracy. In other green groups there is less explicit attention to ideology. For some it is implicit in their practices, as for instance in the targets chosen by direct action groups or in their culture and everyday practices. In other cases, such as environmental movement organisations, it is evident only in their general mission statements1 or at the margins of their more issue-specific campaigns, as when they address questions of inner city poverty, for instance. Perhaps the most stable and general statements about green ideology are those made by green parties. More than other green groups they have had to develop a collective view on the central political problems, their causes and remedial actions. In the section below the evidence is based on statements drawn from green party programmes. The relation between these ideas and those of other greens will be addressed later.

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  • christopher
    What is the green movement or ideology 6356?
    11 months ago

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