The Green State. Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty, By Robyn Eckersley
What would constitute a definitively “green” state? In this important new book, Robyn Eckersley explores what it might take to create a green democratic state as an alternative to the classical liberal democratic state, the indiscriminate growth-dependent welfare state, and the neoliberal market-focused state—seeking, she writes, “to navigate between undisciplined political imagination and pessimistic resignation to the status quo.” In recent years, most environmental scholars and environmentalists have characterized the sovereign state as ineffectual and have criticized nations for perpetuating ecological destruction. Going consciously against the grain of much current thinking, this book argues that the state is still the preeminent political institution for addressing environmental problems. States remain the gatekeepers of the global order, and greening the state is a necessary step, Eckersley argues, toward greening domestic and international policy and law.
The Green State seeks to connect the moral and practical concerns of the environmental movement with contemporary theories about the state, democracy, and justice. Eckersley’s proposed “critical political ecology” expands the boundaries of the moral community to include the natural environment in which the human community is embedded. This is the first book to make the vision of a “good” green state explicit, to explore the obstacles to its achievement, and to suggest practical constitutional and multilateral arrangements that could help transform the liberal democratic state into a postliberal green democratic state. Rethinking the state in light of the principles of ecological democracy ultimately casts it in a new role: that of an ecological steward and facilitator of transboundary democracy rather than a selfish actor jealously protecting its territory.
Robyn Eckersley is Reader/Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Melbourne. She is the author of The Green State: Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty (MIT Press, 2004).
Although the question of the state is unavoidable for green political theory, a systematic and comprehensive treatment of the state in a green context has until now been lacking. That gap is admirably filled by Robyn Eckersley’s The Green State, which works through contending theories of the state, both in domestic and international contexts, to fashion a powerful and original argument. This is a major and important contribution.
Department of Political Studies, Trent University
A magnificent achievement which will be a key point of reference for years to come.
Department of Government and Politics, Open University, UK
Eckersley’s book will be a significant contribution for those in several subfields of politics—theory, comparative, international—for those concerned about green politics, and for those who work on theories of the state.
Department of Politics, University of California, Santa Cruz
In this compelling book Robyn Eckersley challenges much green pessimism about the state’s capacity to contribute to ecological reform. She draws on an extensive literature in critical theory, political philosophy, international relations and the global environment to develop ‘a cautiously optimistic assessment’ of the prospects for ‘ecologically responsible statehood.’ The Green State is certain to alter the terms of the debate about the state and world politics. It will be the first port of call for analysts of the state and the global environment for years to come, but its influence will almost certainly extend beyond these confines to many other areas of contemporary social and political inquiry.
Woodrow Wilson Professor, University of Wales, Aberystwyth