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Ecocritique: Contesting the Politics of Nature, Economy, and Culture

Timothy W. Luke
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Timothy Luke exposes how ecological critics, organizations, and movements manipulate our conception of the environment. Turning the tables on the ecocritics, Luke demonstrates how ecocriticism can move beyond its familiar confines to engage larger cultural, economic, and political questions. “Tim Luke has emerged as one of the most exciting writers on global politics today.” --Scott Lash, Lancaster University

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8761-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Contesting the Politics of Nature, Economy, and Culture
    (pp. xi-xx)

    The Environment. Silent Spring. Embattled Nature. Our Ecology. Population Explosion. Damaged Ecosystems. Mother Earth. Terms such as these have turned into anchor points for social critics, moral philosophers, and policy experts over the past three decades. Because nothing in Nature simply is given within society, such terms must be assigned significance by every social group that mobilizes them as meaningful constructs. As a result, a never-ending flow of moral arguments, cultural quarrels, and policy squabbles constantly collide with various constructions of nature, economy, and culture deployed in the political discourses of any state and society.

    Many styles of ecologically grounded...

  5. 1 Deep Ecology as Political Philosophy
    (pp. 1-27)

    This chapter reconsiders “deep ecology” as a political philosophy. Deep ecology emerged in the 1970s as a critical reaction to the reform environmentalism of the 1960s, which developed, in turn, as a response to the unfettered exploitation of Nature during the global economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Yet, in seeking to improve on reform environmentalism, deep ecologists—such as Arne Naess, Bill Devall, and George Sessions—have taken conceptual positions in their philosophy of nature that are quite problematic. This chapter outlines their basic philosophical stance and then elaborates a critique of some of their more contradictory claims.¹...

  6. 2 Ecological Politics and Local Struggles: Earth First! as an Environmental Resistance Movement
    (pp. 28-55)

    This chapter analyzes the operations of Earth First! as an environmental resistance movement, one that has been influenced significantly by deep ecology thinkers. Working on the local level in the United States as well as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, India, Mexico, Poland, and Great Britain, many Earth First! activists have proven to be radical practitioners of ecological direct action to protect wilderness areas and preserve biodiversity.¹ At the same time, the federal government, national broadcasting networks, and local media outlets in the United States have expended a great deal of time and energy portraying Earth First! as a new kind...

  7. 3 The Nature Conservancy or the Nature Cemetery: Buying and Selling “Perpetual Care” as Environmental Resistance
    (pp. 56-74)

    Unlike Earth First!, many find it difficult to criticize the work of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Compared to many other environmental organizations, it is doing something tangible, immediate, and significant to protect Nature—buying, holding, and guarding large swatches of undisturbed natural habitat—by sticking to the ground rules of the current capitalist economy. Millions of acres, occupying many diverse ecosystems all over North and South America, now are being held in trust by TNC. This trust is being exercised not only for future generations of people, but also for all new generations of the plants and animals, fungi and...

  8. 4 Worldwatching at the Limits of Growth
    (pp. 75-94)

    Many ecological organizations are criticized by the mass media for being too "radical" in organizing environmentalist actions. By reminding us that pollution respects no borders, that the wind carries Chernobyl everywhere, that rain forests cut down in Brazil today may mean no cancer cures in Nebraska tomorrow, or that thinking globally requires acting locally, such mediagenic groups as Greenpeace, Earth First! and the Sierra Club have redefined the rhetorics of political radicalism, sites of global involvement, and visions of environmental activism in the imaginations of millions. These high-profile green groups may, however, only be bit players in media spectacles, which...

  9. 5 Environmental Emulations: Terraforming Technologies and the Tourist Trade at Biosphere 2
    (pp. 95-114)

    On September 17,1994, a second shakedown crew of seven Biospherians left their living quarters in Biosphere 2, ending abruptly their planned six-month session of experiments. Intended originally to secure some loose ends exposed by the first mission of Biosphere 2, which ran from September 1991 to September 1993 with a crew of eight in the glare of international media spotlights, this far more low-key test was called to a dead stop by Edward P. Bass, the Texas billionaire who has backed the project financially from the start. Wishing to cut all ties to the original management team and controversial design...

  10. 6 Green Consumerism: Ecology and the Ruse of Recycling
    (pp. 115-136)

    In the material culture made possible by today’s global capitalist economy, as chapters 4 and 5 show, the personal sphere of the everyday life world is thoroughly political. The ways that material wealth is produced, distributed, and consumed all represent the outcome of innumerable depoliticized technical decisions made by product designers, industrial engineers, corporate managers, public administrators, and marketing executives, all striving to attain the most rational solutions to their respective technical challenges for the economy’s abstract machines. And, in exchange for a constantly increasing level of material comfort and economic security, virtually every client and customer of this global...

  11. 7 Morcuse and the Politics of Radical Ecology
    (pp. 137-152)

    Why return to Marcuse? What can his writing possibly offer to those seeking alternatives to the prevailing social order in the 1990s? Since the collapse of the New Left in the 1970s, Marcuse has been left behind as the theory community stampeded from craze to craze during its successive infatuations with Habermas, Foucault, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Derrida, and Heidegger. Marcuse undoubtedly had something to do with this turn of favor after brooding over the demise of New Left radicalism inCounterrevolution and Revolt,and then turning away from openly activist strategies to embrace the aesthetic alternatives promised by “a new sensibility”...

  12. 8 Developing an Arcological Politics: Paolo Soleri on Ecology, Architecture, and Society
    (pp. 153-176)

    Atop a low mesa above the Agua Fria river in central Arizona, a unique laboratory devoted to testing a new ecological alternative has been developing slowly for twenty-five years. A project of Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti Foundation, Arcosanti is a working prototype for a new kind of city, one that is being designed, built, and inhabited as a three-dimensional, highly concentrated megastructure.¹ To house a city of five thousand to six thousand people, Arcosanti will occupy only fifteen acres of land in the midst of an 86o-acre greenbelt/park area/agricultural zone. The closely articulated structures of Arcosanti will be not much more...

  13. 9 Community and Ecology: Bookchin on the Politics of Ecocommunities and Ecotechnology
    (pp. 177-194)

    This chapter reexamines some possibilities promised by a political economy grounded on the principles of social ecology, as they have been elaborated by Murray Bookchin. It considers some alternatives for populistic/localistic economic exchange, political organization, and technological production that Bookchin sees as real opportunities for those following the guidance of social ecological discourse. Bookchin’s use of “social ecology” describes his application of ecological reasoning as critical social theory to questions of radical social, political, and economic change. In defining social ecology, Bookchin argues:

    Our own era needs a more sweeping and insightful body of knowledge—scientific as well as social...

  14. Conclusion: New Departures for Ecological Resistance
    (pp. 195-210)

    Coming to conclusions is never easy, especially when contesting the politics of nature, economy, and culture. My critical encounters with this diverse collection of contemporary ecocritics may make it even more difficult to draw definitive conclusions about Nature, or politics, ecology, and culture today, inasmuch as my criticisms question comfortable articles of faith advanced in the ecocritiques of these green thinkers. After surveying this selection of ecological social movements, environmental action groups, and green philosophers, the vision of Nature underpinning Biosphere 2, uncomfortably seems to be the most true. Marcuse, Bookchin, and Soleri, as well as Devall, Foreman, and Brown,...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 211-248)
  16. Index
    (pp. 249-254)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)