The Compromise of Liberal Environmentalism

The Compromise of Liberal Environmentalism

Steven Bernstein
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/bern12036
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  • Book Info
    The Compromise of Liberal Environmentalism
    Book Description:

    The most significant shift in environmental governance over the last thirty years has been the convergence of environmental and liberal economic norms toward "liberal environmentalism" -- which predicates environmental protection on the promotion and maintenance of a liberal economic order. Steven Bernstein assesses the reasons for this historical shift, introduces a socio-evolutionary explanation for the selection of international norms, and considers the implications for our ability to address global environmental problems.

    The author maintains that the institutionalization of "sustainable development" at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) legitimized the evolution toward liberal environmentalism. Arguing that most of the literature on international environmental politics is too rationalist and problem-specific, Bernstein challenges the mainstream thinking on international cooperation by showing that it is always for some purpose or goal. His analysis of the norms that guide global environmental policy also challenges the often-presumed primacy of science in environmental governance.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50430-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF ACRONYMS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Steven Bernstein
  5. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-27)

    Few truly global concerns have held the potential to transform substantially the nature of global politics and society. Contenders might include the fear of nuclear annihilation or advances in technology and telecommunications. The former arguably has transformed the nature of conflict between the major powers, while the latter have made possible exponential increases in economic transactions across vast distances, enhanced the spread of culture, and enabled vast changes in the patterns of interaction between a wide range of actors on the global stage.

    Looking back thirty years, one might have predicted that the concern over the state of the global...

  6. Chapter 2 FROM ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
    (pp. 28-69)

    To assess why certain norms prevail, the first task is to identify the set of institutionalized norms—or norm-complex—that defines and regulates appropriate behavior, and assigns rights and responsibilities regarding the issue in question. This chapter and the next undertake this task in detail, a step often omitted in institutional analyses of environmental governance. The two chapters are organized around the major defining events in international environmental governance over the last thirty years: the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm; the 1987 World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) report Our Common Future (also...

  7. Chapter 3 ENVIRONMENT, DEVELOPMENT, AND LIBERAL ENVIRONMENTALISM
    (pp. 70-121)

    This chapter continues the story of the evolution of global environmental norms following the rise of “sustainable development” as a way to frame responses to global environmental problems. The designed ambiguity of that term meant it could hardly be considered a norm, according to my definition, in its own right. Yet, the attempts by states, international organizations, and nongovernmental actors to put sustainable development into action, programs, or treaty commitments started to coalesce around an identifiable set of norms by the early 1990s. That process culminated in the Earth Summit conference, the main focus of this chapter. Whereas many observers...

  8. Chapter 4 EPISTEMIC COMMUNITIES, SCIENCE, AND INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE
    (pp. 122-177)

    Scientists and their findings mattered in the development of international environmentalism. The very nature of global environmental problems as uncertain and complex ensures that technical expertise is called upon for understanding and advice, and that scientific discovery can bring previously unknown problems to the attention of policymakers. It would be truly remarkable if scientists played no role—akin to suggesting that agricultural experts played no role in world agricultural or food programs or that medical doctors or researchers played no role in world health programs. If the research question of interest was simply “did scientific and technical knowledge on specific...

  9. Chapter 5 ECONOMIC IDEAS, SOCIAL STRUCTURE, AND THE EVOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE
    (pp. 178-212)

    This chapter makes two basic theoretical points. First, it argues that ideas that become institutionalized as governing norms must find some “fitness” with the existing international social structure. This is true because most issue areas that constitute coordination or collaboration problems for states generally exist within a nested set of governing norms that have legitimacy. Second, this chapter argues that new norms may come from a variety of sources, but that these sources must have a basis of legitimacy themselves in the eyes of key actors who participate in, and are affected by, the governing structures they create. The key...

  10. Chapter 6 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 213-244)

    This book has put forward two major arguments. First, the advent of sustainable development thinking ushered in the institutionalization of liberal environmentalism. This form of international governance predicates environmental protection on the promotion and maintenance of a liberal economic order. Under liberal environmentalism, a liberal international economic order, privatization of global commons, and market norms are not only perceived as compatible with environmental protection, but also necessary for successful incorporation of concern for the environment in the practices of relevant state and non-state actors.

    The concept of liberal environmentalism owes some intellectual debt to John Ruggie’s concept of “embedded liberalism.”...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 245-270)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 271-294)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 295-314)