The Promise of Green Politics

Environmentalism and the Public Sphere

The Promise of Green Politics

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: July 1999

Environmental Studies, Politics > Political Theory

Politics today is dominated by business news and the stock market. But those in support of green politics ask whether human profit should continue to be the bottom line of political deliberations or if it is time for the interests of the natural world to combine with or even displace the interests of business. In The Promise of Green Politics Douglas Torgerson offers a survey of different schools of ecological thought, discusses their implications for the larger political sphere, and advances a three-dimensional concept of politics that emphasizes ethics and discourse as well as strategy.
Arguing that the environmental movement has the potential to contribute to contemporary developments in political theory and social action by changing discursive practices both at the grassroots level and along the corridors of power, Torgerson draws on the theories of Hannah Arendt and others to advocate a performative type of political debate that values multiple opinions and is not always oriented toward reaching a single conclusion. Torgerson argues that in a world stuck in administrative and scientific gridlock, the theatrical, comic aspects of green politics are as important as other, more goal-oriented, aspects. Gestures of the carnivalesque—such as protestors sleeping in hammocks slung from trees targeted for destruction or funeral processions held for dying rivers—could be the key to the creation of what Torgerson refers to as a “green public sphere,” one that promises a reconfiguration of the relationship between human creativity and the natural world. While offering a number of concrete policy suggestions, his focus remains on the complexity and heterogeneity of green thinking and on the transformative promise implicit in green politics. In creating new ways to speak about the environment, Torgerson argues, the green movement offers a creative way to reconsider many larger issues of political theory and action.
The Promise of Green Politics will serve as a gateway to new thinking about green politics and the emerging possibilities of a diverse and vital green public sphere. As such, it will be valued by those interested in environmental and public policy, political theory, social activism, and the future of political action.


“[The Promise of Green Politics contains] interesting discussions of green politics as comedy and of the impact of environmental discourse on the language of policy makers and policy analysts.” — R. M. Rakoff , Choice

“[A] valuable addition to the literature on environmental thought. Douglas Torgerson’s erudite engagement with various schools of political philosophy and their implications for the theory and practice of environmentalism is valuable for students and environmental activists who are concerned with understanding and articulating the place of environmental movements within the public sphere.” — Daanish Mustafa , Environment

“Douglas Torgerson makes a significant contribution to the . . . blossoming of literature that explores the relationship between environmentalism and political thought. . . . There is much to admire in this book.” — John M. Meyer , American Political Science Review

“Torgerson does advance thinking with regard to the ramifications of pluralism within environmental discourse. . . .” — Wyatt Galusky , Environmental Ethics

“A clear and major advance. . . . The Promise of Green Politics represents a new generation of green political thought that moves beyond earlier texts, which were mostly concerned with staking out the territory. Torgerson tackles many—perhaps most—of the key issues and questions left hanging by others and does so in sophisticated and convincing fashion.” — John Dryzek, author of The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses

“A detailed and penetrating exploration of the relationship between the means and the ends in green politics. Torgerson offers a fresh synthesis of, and new angle on, many of the ongoing environmental debates, from sustainable development and ecological modernization to questions of political strategy and lifestyle.” — Robyn Eckersley, author of Environmentalism and Political Theory: Toward an Ecocentric Approach


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Price: $25.95

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Douglas Torgerson is Professor of both Political Studies and Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. He is the author of Industrialization and Assessment: Social Impact Assessment as a Social Phenomenon and coeditor of Managing Leviathan: Environmental Politics and the Administrative State.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2370-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2337-2