Radical ecology and critical theory: A critique of the environmental movement
The thesis of this dissertation is that the reconstitution of human subjectivity, theoretically and concretely, is necessary to adequately address the global ecological crisis and ongoing social and political domination and exploitation. Initial attempts to constitute this new ecological subject exist in the radical ecology movement (recognized by Rudolf Bahro and Herbert Marcuse in the 1970s), examined here through three primary branches of the radicalized environmental movement: deep ecology, social ecology, and ecofeminism. Aspects of this radical ecological subject are revealed in a critique based on the work of the early Frankfurt School theorists--Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. Adorno's understanding of negative dialectics, or non-identity thinking, is the primary source of categories for the analysis. Jurgen Habermas's critique of Adorno is rejected, and Habermas's "communicative action" theory is also found to be inadequate for radical ecological needs. Adorno's use of the concept/term "mimesis" provides a lever for prying open radical ecology's treasure of insights as well as its limitations. Each branch of radical ecology is examined with reference to its methodology or epistemology, its understanding of subjectivity, and their respective politics.
Deep ecology's deep questioning method, proposed by Arne Naess, is found to differ little from traditional philosophy and inadequately supports its claims about possibilities for identification with nature or the creation of a political identity or agency capable of adequately addressing ecological and social problems, this despite the successes of its political descendants, including Earth First! and Dave Foreman. Social ecology, elaborated by Murray Bookchin, expands the idea of subjectivity beyond its ability to provide the critical conceptual framework necessary to resolve the ecological crisis. Bookchin's critique and interpretation of the early Critical Theorists also fails. Ecofeminism, a diverse set of perspectives, must be approached cautiously while attempting to salvage consistent theoretical categories which, combined with critical theory's insights, illuminate potentials for development of a future radical ecological subject. Useful categories include "feminist standpoint theory," the "ethic of care," psychoanalysis and other insights from the works of Luce Irigaray, Nancy Hartsock, Sara Ruddick and Drucilla Cornell.
0615: Political science
0768: Environmental science