Environmentalism and Political Theory

Toward an Ecocentric Approach

By Robyn Eckersley

Subjects: Environmental Politics
Series: SUNY series in Environmental Public Policy
Paperback : 9780791410141, 274 pages, April 1992
Hardcover : 9780791410134, 274 pages, May 1992

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



Part I: Staking out the Green Terrain

1: The Development of Modern Ecopolitical Thought: From Participation and Survival to Emancipation


The Environmental Problematic as a Crisis of Participation
The Environmental Problematic as a Crisis of Survival
The Environmental Problematic as a Crisis of Culture and Character and as an Opportunity for Emancipation
The Emancipatory Critique of Conservatism, Liberalism, and Orthodox Marxism
The Anthropocentric/Ecocentric Cleavage within Emancipatory Thought


2. Exploring the Environmental Spectrum: From Anthropocentrism to Ecocentrism


Major Streams of Environmentalism
Resource Conservation
Human Welfare Ecology
Animal Liberation


3. Ecocentrism Explained and Defended


Ecocentrism Explained
Some Common Criticisms and Misunderstandings
Three Varieties of Ecocentrism


Autopoietic Intrinsic Value Theory
Transpersonal Ecology


Part II: An Ecocentric Analysis of Green Political Thought

4. The Ecocentric Challenge to Marxism


The Theoretical Roots
Orthodox Eco-Marxism
Humanist Eco-Marxism
Beyond Marxism


5. The Failed Promise of Critical Theory


The Legacy of Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse
Habermasian Revisions
The Ecocentric Critique
The "Good Life" Revisited


6. Ecosocialism: The Post-Marxist Synthesis


The Ecosocialist Critique


Farewell to Scientific Socialism and the Economic Growth Consensus
The Problematic Role of the Working Class
The New Internationalism


The Meaning and Lesson of Ecology according to Ecosocialism
The Ecosocialist Agenda
Evaluation: More Democracy or More Bureaucracy?
An Alternative Green Market Economy


7. Ecoanarchism: The Non-Marxist Visionaries


The Social Ecology of Murray Bookchin


Bookchin's Social Hierarchy Thesis
Bookchin's Evolutionary Stewardship Thesis




Monasticism Revisited


Does Ecocentrism Demand Ecoanarchism?


Are Humans "Essentially" Cooperative?
The "Other Side" of Decentralization, Local Democracy, and Human Scale


The Ecoanarchist Model of Autonomy as Self-Management







This book provides the most detailed and comprehensive examination to date of the impact of environmentalism upon contemporary political thought. It sets out to disentangle the various strands of Green political thought and explain their relationship to the major Western political traditions. Environmentalism and Political Theory represents the consolidation of a new field of political inquiry that is destined to become an increasingly important component of political studies and political reporting worldwide. An interdisciplinary study that builds bridges between environmental philosophy, ecological thought, and political inquiry, this book employs a range of new insights from environmental philosophy to outline a particular Green political perspective.

Robyn Eckersley is Australian Research Council Fellow, Centre for Environmental Studies at the University of Tasmania.


"Green political theory is the most exciting new area of inquiry for political theory scholars. The author's scholarship significantly advances that inquiry. This area is also important for the future of life on planet Earth, as the presently dominant political theories are leading us to an environmental catastrophe. I have long perceived the need for this kind of book. " — Lester Milbrath, State University of New York at Buffalo

"The environmental crisis is the most serious crisis we have ever faced. It cannot be approached without a comprehensive understanding that is interdisciplinary. The political philosophy of this book addresses this reality. The environmental crisis, as the author points out, is not a technical problem but involves our culture and character structures. The old political ideologies and left-right distinctions are no longer useful. Thus the need for a transevaluation and new ecocentrically based transformative theories and practices. We need to revision our comprehensive understanding of political theory and worldview. This book makes significant contributions to these ends. " — Alan R. Drengson, University of Victoria, British Columbia