We now have the fundamentals of ecologism in place. We have discussed its critique of contemporary society, we have outlined its proposals for an ecologically sound society, and we have assessed its approach to bringing such a society about. I have claimed that ecologism is a new political ideology, worthy of attention in the new millennium alongside other more familiar ones such as liberalism, conservatism and socialism. If this is correct, then it is only natural to want to compare and contrast this new ideology with those which it seeks to challenge. That is what I propose to do in this chapter. In so doing, it is my intention to deepen our understanding of what marks ecologism off from those other ideologies. I shall be arguing that attempts by liberals, conservatives and socialists to appropriate ecological thought for themselves will founder, since, as I pointed out in the Introduction, ecologism is as different from each of them as they are from each other. The examination carried out in this chapter should drive home this point.
In principle, the list of ideologies with which ecologism could be compared and contrasted is a long one. In choosing to devote attention to just four of them I might be accused of pruning that long list unduly. There are two reasons for doing so, however. The first is that I wanted to give each of these four ideologies a run for its money. Broad comparisons have been helpfully carried out elsewhere (see e.g. Hay, 1988; Martell, 1994, ch. 5; Garner, 2000, ch. 3; Connelly and Smith, 2003, pp. 52-65), but the range of coverage has been bought at the cost of making it rather thin, with typically a page or two devoted to each ideology. Particularly recently, and particularly in the cases of the four ideologies I deal with here, some very interesting comparative work has been done, and it is simply not possible to do this work justice in a short space.
Second, the ideologies I have chosen for assessment might legitimately be regarded as lying at the roots of those I have left out. This is to say that liberalism, conservatism and socialism are widely held to be the most fundamental ideologies of the modern era, and other less fundamental ones can often be read through them (although never wholly reducible to them). I hope, therefore, to have provided an indirect service to those who would want to contrast ecologism with nationalism or with fascism, for example, although I am acutely aware of the breadth I have nevertheless sacrificed. Feminism might not generally be held to be in the same league as liberalism, conservatism and socialism (although I am not so sure myself), but the justification for including a detailed discussion of it here is that it has influenced the development of ecolo-gism in a way unmatched by any other ideology, with the possible exception of socialism. This influence has also, I think, been reciprocal.
For no particular reason, the ideologies with which I compare and contrast ecologism are in the following order: liberalism, conservatism, socialism and feminism.
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