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Civic republicanism and green politics

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Civic republicanism and green politics

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Civic Republicanism and Green Politics
John Barry
1
and Kimberly Smith
2
Forthcoming in Daniel Leighton and Stuart White (eds), Building a Citizen Society:
The Emerging Politics of Republican Democracy (Lawrence and Wishart)
Introduction
The language of civic republicanism has been largely absent from debates within green
politics. This absence is remarkable given the compatibility of core republican ideas with
key principles of green politics, particularly its over-arching goal of ‘sustainable
development’. Key features of green politics, as we understand it, include, inter alia,
active citizenship, understood in part as a form of stewardship, in which duties as well as
rights are central; a democratised and decentralised state is seen as a necessary institution
to promote the common good of sustainability (particularly in relation to regulating the
free market); and a sense of justice and connection between past, present and future
generations. All of these key features of green politics, and others, are remarkably close
to the republican political vision. We believe that emphasising the republican strains
native to the political cultures of western liberal democracies could help to create a
1
School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Address for correspondence - Email: j.barry@qub.ac.uk
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Department of Political Science, Carleton College, Minnesota, USA.
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political environment more conducive to green politics and policy, and allows greens to
offer an ‘immanent critique’ of the current unsustainable development paths being
followed by western societies in a language comprehensible to the majority of its citizens.
In contrast to the dominant versions of liberalism and conservatism, both of which
emphasise an individualistic conception of freedom as non-interference (either with
personal lifestyle choices, economic behaviour or ‘tradition’) and an optimistic view of
humans’ ability to transcend their limits, republicanism emphasises the duties of
citizenship and the individual’s dependence on a specific historical community as it is
embedded in a particular natural environment. Indeed, civic republicanism is vitally
concerned with the key challenge of sustainability–– how to extend the life of a specific
historical community and its cherished and hard-won values and practices, especially
freedom, in a world ruled by forces beyond full human control. The republican
conception of the human condition is, in key respects, the same as the green conception:
It acknowledges humans’ complex relations of dependence on natural forces outside our
control, our limited understanding of those relationships and forces, the (relatively) fixed
ecological limits within which human society can flourish.
Our aim here is to outline the central features of republicanism as they can and should
inform green politics, focusing on its understanding of the human condition, the
implications of that understanding for politics and citizenship, and its conception of
political time and the problem of sustainability. We conclude by making a pragmatic
case for ‘republicanising’ green politics.
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Vulnerability and Citizenship
Republicans begin with the defining feature of our human condition, and one that, as
Alistair Macintyre notes is absence from dominant forms of liberal political thinking:
namely our vulnerability and dependency. Human vulnerability permeates republican
thought; as Aristotle reminds us, we are neither beasts nor gods; we cannot survive alone
in the wilderness and retain our distinctive humanity. Rousseau, another important
source for republicans, argues in the Discourse on Inequality that humans’ relative
weakness, our vulnerability to natural dangers, makes us not just dependent creatures, but
interdependent. Interdependence in turn creates the possibility of domination –– which is
particularly troublesome for republicans, who understand liberty as non-domination.
Because we depend on one another for survival and prospering in a dangerous and
uncontrollable world, we need political institutions to order our common life so as to
preserve and sustain some measure of equality and civil (if not natural) freedom and
equality. This goal of civic freedom permeates republican thought, creating an important
counterpoint to its equally strong emphasis on civic duties. The republican project is to
create a secure home for free men and women, not for slaves, and this will not occur
‘naturally’ but only by active citizen political action and the creation of liberty-sustaining
practices and institutions, particularly the state and the rule of law especially
constitutional provisions.
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That project brings us to the heart of the republic political vision: Politics, for
republicans, is an attempt to build an enduring home for human lives in a world ruled by
contingency and filled with hostile agents, both human and nonhuman. Political
communities and its values –– of liberty, honour, the common good –– are conventional,
human creations, not naturally given; they must be actively created and sustained. And
like any construction project, building a city (and its citizens) begins with choosing a site
and specifying the needs of the inhabitants. Republican theorists are therefore
particularly attentive to the many contingent features of the natural and social
environment that will determine a community’s political possibilities. Because we face
unknown threats from nature and from other actors, we must pay close attention to our
natural environment and resource base. After all, the ultimate source of the resources
needed to sustain a republic, its common good and valued way/s of life, is not created by
humans, but found in nature and transformed by human labour and intentions. We are
utterly dependent upon and are vulnerable to nature and therefore there is a strong reason
to be particularly attendant to our relationship to nature.
But resources are relative to needs; a disciplined (and united) people accustomed to
frugality and modesty will not make as many demands on its resource base. They will
also be more unified and so better able to defend their city –– and to recover from
disaster. This republican concern with promoting healthy, resilient communities thus
corresponds well with contemporary empirical research on the conditions which enhance
a community’s capacity to withstand external shocks and disasters. That research
typically identifies as critical to resilience certain socio-economic conditions – principally
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rough socio-economic equality, access to political power, robust but not extensive social
capital networks, and concrete and embodied practices of solidarity through active,
effective modes of citizen mobilisation. These conditions, of course, resemble the key
features of community life championed within the civic republican tradition (Cutter
2006).
Such social conditions do not happen by chance, however, nor can they be maintained
without effective laws and good leadership. Political leadership is in fact an enduring
republican concern –– a concern notably absent from green political theory, but arguably
one of the most pressing ‘gaps’ in green politics that needs to be rectified. Green
theorists, we believe, eschew discussion of leadership on the (false) grounds that
leadership is inimical to a green vision of participatory, grassroots democracy.
Engagement with republicanism can help overcome this deficiency in green political
theory. Republicans remind us that facilitative and inspiring political leadership is not
necessarily a danger to even radical forms of democratic politics, and is undoubtedly
essential for the transition to sustainability (the key aim of green politics).
Leaders, however, can do only so much. Politics is ultimately in the hands of citizens,
and citizenship for republicans is an identity and practice. Citizens as well as cities are
made not born. Here recent debates within green politics on citizenship (Dobson, 2003:
Dobson and Bell, 2005) are illustrative of the potential for engagement between green
politics and republicanism, particularly those (Barry, 2005) that have defended distinctly
‘republican’ notions of green citizenship including proposing forms of compulsory
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‘sustainability service’ for all citizens, that can be defended on green principles of
achieving sustainability and that are also liberty-sustaining, and can contribute to the
social and economic ‘bottom lines’ of sustainability.
Time, Obligation and Vulnerability
Sustainability is a central value for republicans. For republican theorists, the fundamental
political problem is how to maintain a city over several generations (Pocock, 1975).
Indeed, the challenge of creating a stable republic in a dynamic, complex and often-
threatening world seems overwhelmingly difficult to virtually all republican theorists.
One is, after all, fighting the tendency of all living things (including human communities)
to grow, decline and die. This conception of time coheres well with green political
theory, of which organicism and such cyclical conceptions of time are constitutive
features (particularly in deep ecological and ecocentric theory, as well as non-Western
indigenous and first peoples’ cultural perspectives). But in republican thought this
cyclical view of time underscores the fragility of human creations: Very few classic
republican theorists imagined that one could create a constitution that would last
indefinitely. Inevitably, as the republic grew strong, corruption would set in and weaken
its foundations. Even periodic ‘renewals’ of civic virtue could not be counted on to
forever halt nature’s course. Eventually the republic would become a tyranny, oligarchy
or a ‘mobocracy’. At best, republicans warn us, we can hope to create a relatively long-
lived republic. This sense of fragility makes the republican perspective acutely sensitised
towards
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a) the need to attend to the sources and conditions of sustaining and maintaining
the republic through time against the backdrop of contingency and events beyond
its control; and
b) the obligations of the present and founding generations to pass on the republic.
Thus the sustainability of the republic is central to republicanism.
But republicanism’s understanding of sustainability is not confined to defining our
obligations to the future. In addition, republicanism embodies a sense of obligations to
previous generations, of duties to remember and honour the past. Republicanism seeks a
life for its citizens, their deeds and glories, beyond their own life, which in turns offers
citizens a strong incentive to contribute to the republic’s longevity. As green political
theorist John O’Neill (1993) argues, in remarkably republican terms, the achievements
and intentions a community do not end with either one phase or stage of its evolution. As
he puts in his chapter entitled ‘Future Generations and the Harms we do Ourselves’,
The assumption that future generations cannot benefit or harm us entails that we
can do no harm or good to the generations of the past. It is tied to the modern loss
of any sense of a community with generations outside of our own times – of any
sense of reciprocal action or dialogue with them… Future generations can benefit
or harm us. The success or failure of our lives depends on them for it and that
they are able to bring to fruition our projects (1993: 28, 34).
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The centrality of this reciprocal, on-going and conscious connection between past,
present and future generations helps explain why many of republicans (such as US
founding father Thomas Jefferson) favoured an agrarian rather than manufacturing based
economy. An agrarian society based on family and community connections to the land
provides a link between generations who have lived and worked the land, creating a
strong connection to place and an interest in caring for it –– which interest is of course a
central aspect of the contemporary green focus on sustainability. Writers such as
Wendell Berry and others have eloquently expressed this ‘Jeffersonian agrarian
republicanism’ (Smith, 2003; Wirzba 2003). Again, as John O’Neill argues:
In contrast to the past, the present generation acts on the land in terms of a
temporally local horizon without a sense of identity of projects spreading over
time. It engages knowingly in resource depletion. To have a tie to a place is to
have a tie with an environment which reveals a particular past history. It is to
recognize the skills embedded in dry stone walls, hedgerows and buildings and to
have a sense of continuity with those whose skills are thus made public (1993:
41).
We do not wish to promote a romanticised vision of agrarian society, of course; even
Jefferson’s America was filled with dangers both natural and social, including
environmental challenges. A republican sensibility is not romantic; it is resolutely based
in ‘realpolitik’ hence its ‘tough’ and often ‘austere’ character and an
empirical/scientific assessment of the dangers and challenges facing the republic.
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However, like republicanism, green politics takes a realistic and empirically informed
view of the challenges facing human societies, and of the possibilities for progressive
social transformation towards building sustainable as societies (Barry, 2006). It is thus a
politics of hope though not neglecting in some Panglossian fashion those very real and
looming threats we face, the foregrounding of which often means green politics is
presented as a reactionary ‘doom and gloom’ form of ‘fear-mongering’. The ‘fear’ that
animates green politics is not some reactionary Malthusian concern with non-negotiable
‘scarcity’ – the standard critique of green politics from the liberal left as found in authors
such as Anthony Giddens (Barry, 2007) who fundamentally misunderstand green politics.
Rather, in our view, green politics is a progressive, ‘concrete utopian’ mode of political
thought. As concrete utopianism, it offers a vision to guide social reform that is not
divorced from the ineliminable ‘hard facts’ of social-environmental relations ––
particularly the facts of social relations which delimit the effective range – but do not
determine or dictate – social choice (Benton, 1993; Diamond, 2005).
In sum, republican theorists remind us that our vulnerability to natural disasters and our
ultimate dependence on the natural world — and our concomitant dependence on one
another –– is the starting point for any sort of politics. This is the fundamental political
problem. Any political theory which does not only articulate this but also see it as a
foundational principle is deficient as a realistic account of the political condition, and is
to that extent weakened as an effective guide to action. This has lead some green
thinkers, such as Brian Baxter (1996) to ask whether in our contemporary age of ecology,
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sustainability and climate change, whether any political theory which seeks to be relevant
to the problems we now face must be ‘green’?
Republicanising Green Politics: Pragmatics
Philip Pettit in his 1997 book, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government,
argues forcefully that republicanism has not only normative but significant strategic
import for green politics (Pettit, 1997: 129-147). We agree –– with some qualifications.
Pettit points out that public dialogue and contestation are central to republic politics,
which must therefore be conducted in a language which is not only usable but also
understandable by citizens. A politics conducted in a language incomprehensible to a
significant portion of citizens will not have much chance of gaining their support. Pettit
(correctly in our opinion) highlights this as a serious problem for green politics. As he
puts it, ‘radical environmentalism, according to which the state should be shaped with a
view to non-human as well as human interests, does not itself offer a language of
grievance and claim that has any chance of reaching the ears of those outside the green
movement’ (Pettit, 1997: 136).
Now, lest we be misunderstood, we do not agree with Pettit’s claim that non-
anthropocentric or ecocentric claims and interests cannot be coherently expressed within
a ‘green republican’ language (Pettit, 1997: 134, 135). Green political theory, as we and
other green theorists understand it (Biro, 2005; Dobson, 2003; Cannavo, 2007), does not
require ecocentrism as a foundational or constitutive feature; it requires only a critical
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attitude towards unreflective anthropocentrism. Claims on behalf of the non-human
world can certainly be cast in terms of the ‘enlightened anthropocentric’ idiom of green
politics (Barry, 1999). But we want to stress Pettit’s point about the importance of
expressing one’s political claims in a language that extends one’s audience beyond the
‘chosen few’. As Pettit puts it, “The pragmatism required [to appeal to a broad audience]
may not appeal to purists, but apart from being ineffective, the purist attitude is also
exceedingly precious. Why should devotees of a certain cause shrink from presenting
that cause in terms that have general appeal, on the grounds that the cause appeals to
them in different, more particular ways?” (1997: 136).
Of course, we would allow for the legitimacy of articulating one’s claims in an ethical or
political language with is not immediately or universally accepted. More specifically, we
strongly endorse the argument for resisting the pressure to present green claims in a
language that systematically corrupts its moral import. For example, greens have
criticized economic modes of articulating sustainability dilemmas, especially contingent
valuation techniques of cost-benefit analysis (Barry, 1999, O’Neill, 1993). Simply put,
green political theory contends that moral claims on behalf of nature and non-economic
valuations of the environment should not have to be publicly articulated in a language of
economic valuation, despite its broad general appeal. Here, we stand with green ‘purists’
(to use Pettit’s term) who refuse to translate their ethical commitments into an economic
language, even though by so doing they engage in forms of political communication
which seem out of step with widely-held and familiar idioms for addressing political
trade-offs. A good example of this and one which demonstrates the compatibility of green
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politics and republicanism is the green insistence on the need to democratically regulate
the free market economy, to see the market as an instrument (like the state) and to ‘re-
embed’ it into community as necessary to achieve sustainability. Greens, like
republicans, are concerned to ensure that the market economy does not produce
detrimental ‘spill-over’ effects – mainly to do with the tendency of the unregulated
market to orientate itself around an undifferentiated pursuit of economic growth and the
concomitant creation of socio-economic inequality and dominance of ‘consumer’
identities and practices over those of the ‘citizen’ (Barry and Doherty, 2002) – which
threaten ecological sustainability and other green and republican values such as political
equality, quality of life, civic solidarity and sustainable, liveable communities.
We think this stand is consistent with Pettit’s position; after all, an unqualified
endorsement of his principle could mean that anti-slavery advocates within a
predominantly slave-owning political culture would have to express their claims in a
language which is, to put it mildly, not ‘fit for purpose’! Just like the abolitionists had
recourse to a different but not entirely novel political language – that of individual rights
and the dignity of the person – green advocates have recourse to a new (though also old)
language of the intrinsic value of nature and enlightened anthropocentrism. An example
here is the political discourse of ‘animal rights’, which draws on familiar concepts of
rights and justice in a novel way, thus signalling to the audience that the speaker
considers these issues morally and politically serious and therefore demanding of their
attention.
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This case for political purity notwithstanding, we believe Pettit’s argument for political
pragmatism is well-founded and consistent with the civic republicanism tradition, which
also views citizens as imperfect creatures governed by a range of noble and base
motivations and politics as an on-going form of ‘social learning’ and adaptation to
changing circumstances. It is for this reason that republicans, like some green theorists,
see the necessity of integrating an account of the virtues, dispositions of character which
are needed to help ‘cope with’ (rather than somehow ‘solve’) human-nature relations
(Barry, 1999). This point about the virtues is relevant to the question of whether green
politics demands not only that certain actions be done (more recycling, greater civic
participation, reducing energy use, etc) but that these actions be done for the ‘right’
reasons. We agree with Pettit and others (such as Dryzek (1987)) that it is more
important that people to do the ‘right’ environmental action than that they must do this
for the ‘right’ reason. Thus we part ways with a significant body of green political
theory that hold the view that behavioural change without an underlying change in
consciousness in a ‘green’ direction is either morally less valuable or practically self-
defeating.
Nevertheless, attitudes are critical to a healthy political culture, and Pettit recognises that
the main reason for protecting the environment and engaging in political action for
sustainability is not simply our interest in survival but also touch upon deeper issues of
identity and belonging. Pettit argues that,
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The ecosystem, with the other species of animals that it contains, offers us our
place in nature; it is the space, ultimately where we belong…We are all that it is
given to us to identify with in that world, worked and unworked by humans, that
we see as our own…We live in physical, biological and psychological continuity
with other human beings, with other animal species, and ultimately with the larger
physical system that comes to consciousness in us (Pettit, 1997: 137; emphasis
added)
This stress on identity and our continuity with the non-human world, the view of the
nonhuman world as our home (with all that ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ implies) significantly
temper the anthropocentrism of republicanism. Pettit’s republican reading of green
politics permits non-instrumental valuations (and associated uses) of the natural world.
While, as he points out, this take on green politics is hardly likely to convince ecocentrics
or deep ecologists, his republicanised green politics is very close to enlightened
anthropocentric positions which the present authors see as more normatively justifiable
and politically attractive (Barry, 1999). Moreover, the republican support for radical
democratic pluralism provides a secure place for ecocentric and deep ecological positions
to claim their space in the arena of ideas and debate.
Conclusion
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Space has precluded a full exploration of the relationship between green politics and
republicanism but we hope to have demonstrated some reasons for suggesting that there
are strong grounds for their mutual compatibility. Shared principles and concerns such as
the longevity of a political community; a temporal horizon reaching into the past and the
future; a concern with contingent events; an awareness of our dependency and
vulnerability upon the natural world; and perhaps above all a recognition of the centrality
of community and equality as key elements necessary for the creation and sustaining of a
democratic and free society all point towards this compatibility.
We also note, without argument, of the recent historical experiences of liberal democratic
societies such as America or Britain that, in our view, revert to republican forms of
governance and politics in dealing with external threats and stresses such as war or the
threat of war or internal societal discord. Sociologically speaking, we hold that
republicanism is the more fundamental and therefore more robust and enduring
dimension of western democracies and one that green politics needs to mobilise and tap
into.
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However, there is a case to be made that it was not liberal democratic states and
citizens which rose to the challenge of defeating fascism in the Second World War, or, in
the case of America, began the difficult process of dealing with the deep injustice of
racism and unequal civil rights, but republican states and citizens. Thus, we conclude by
firmly stating our belief that to the traditional republican slogan of ‘liberty, equality,
community’ a forth needs to be added, ‘sustainability’, if the republican political vision
wants to make itself relevant to the politics of the 21
st
century and if green politics wants
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to make itself a viable political force in the coming decades ahead capable of achieving
sustainability.
References
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Citizenship’ in Dobson, A. and Bell, D. (eds), Environment and Citizenship, Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.
Barry, J. (2006), ‘Straw Dogs, Blind Horses and Post-Humanism: The Greening of
Gray?’, Critical Review of International Political Philosophy, 9:2.
Barry, J. (2007), Environment and Social Theory, 2
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Baxter, B. (1996), ‘Must Political Theory now be Green?’, in Hampsher-Monk, I. and
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Dobson, A. and Bell, D. (eds), Environment and Citizenship, Cambridge, MA: MIT
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Notes
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1
This is of course not to say these reversions to republicanism are not unproblematic – the corruption and
abuse of republican patriotism (something we have not had time to develop in this chapter) is one potential
problem, yet a commitment to a sense of place, people and practices which patriotism evokes, is something
that green politics needs.
... Or, more circumspectly, that consumption can be a site for citizenship practice and ethico-moral formation that leads to deeper political engagement (Barry 2006). In either case, private virtues are conceived such that the division between private and public spheres is rejected, in favour of some kind of unification of these in the collective good of virtuousness (Barry 1999, Barry and Smith 2008 or in favour of a commitment to justice that is grounded in awareness of the finiteness and maldistribution of ES (Dobson 2003(Dobson , esp. pp. ...
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Is authoritarian power ever legitimate? The contemporary political theory literature—which largely conceptualizes legitimacy in terms of democracy or basic rights—would seem to suggest not. I argue, however, that there exists another, overlooked aspect of legitimacy concerning a government’s ability to ensure safety and security. While, under normal conditions, maintaining democracy and rights is typically compatible with guaranteeing safety, in emergency situations, conflicts between these two aspects of legitimacy can and often do arise. A salient example of this is the COVID-19 pandemic, during which severe limitations on free movement and association have become legitimate techniques of government. Climate change poses an even graver threat to public safety. Consequently, I argue, legitimacy may require a similarly authoritarian approach. While unsettling, this suggests the political importance of climate action. For if we wish to avoid legitimating authoritarian power, we must act to prevent crises from arising that can only be resolved by such means.
... Green political thought is perhaps more familiar with the notions of environmental responsibility and active citizenship -encouraging individuals to think about the implications of their actions and sacrifice private interests for the sake of the common sustainability good -than with rights. These ideas have great resonance with the civic republican model of citizenship (Curry, 2000;Barry and Smith, 2008); they inform images of ecological citizenship centred on duty (Barry, 1999(Barry, , 2002(Barry, , 2006Light, 2001Light, , 2002Newby, 1996;Curtin, 1999Curtin, , 2002Dean, 2001;Smith, 1998) 18 . Of course, both entitlements and obligations are acknowledged in what is being defined here as rights and duty-based approaches, but the stress is placed respectively on one dimension. ...
... Despite the lack of research on common aspects of both theories, there are several overlaps between green and republican political theories (Barry 2008(Barry , 2012(Barry , 2017Barry and Eckersley 2005;Barry and Smith 2008;Cannavò 2012Cannavò , 2016Curry 2000;Slaughter 2005;Wall 2014). Examples include non-neutrality regarding the common good, the promotion of civic virtues, deliberative and agonistic approaches to political discussions, and the recognition of the existing interdependencies (both social and nature-oriented). ...
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Green republicanism can be described as a subset of republican political theory that aims at promoting human flourishing by ensuring a non-dominating and ecologically sustainable republic. An essential aspect of green republicanism is the promotion of post-productivism while preserving or expanding republican freedom as non-domination. Post-productivism implies the promotion of personal autonomy rather than the pursuit of permanent economic growth and the promotion of labour as an intrinsically positive human activity, which for green republicans will have three positive aspects: reduced ecological impact, more time available for civic participation, and the extension of democratic decision-making and norms to the sphere of production. An important aspect in the definition of a post-productivist society is the way welfare schemes are designed. In this article, I will thus compare the existing welfare regimes with a (green) participation income and with an unconditional basic income, and analyse how they promote green republican goals. I conclude that the current systems are one of the elements of the productivist society and that would not answer the green republican conditions. A green participation income could have a positive ecological impact and contribute to a shift to post-productivism but would face serious challenges from a republican perspective, namely in terms of the non-arbitrariness of its attribution. Finally, I conclude that depending on how it is defined, an unconditional basic income could contribute to post-productivism while being non-arbitrary thus obeying the green republican conditions.
... Aristotelian conception of citizenry is specially oriented towards the defence of the common good against sectarian interests and the formation of the moral character understood as a public and not merely private concern that involves the power of the 9 There has been so far little academic work done on the intersection between green and republican traditions. See Curry (2000), Barry (2008Barry ( , 2012, Barry and Smith (2008), Cannavò (2010Cannavò ( , 2012aCannavò ( , 2012b. 10 See Skinner (1990), Dagger (1997Dagger ( , 2004Dagger ( , 2006a), Pettit (1997,2012), Honohan (2002), Maynor (2008), Maynor and Laborde (2008), Laborde (2013). 25 community 11 . ...
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This thesis locates itself in the field of critical green political theory. It takes the present environmental crisis as its object of study to provide a critical account of the way it is currently addressed in dominant Anthropocene narratives and liberal capitalist growth-based institutions. This work offers a constructive and emancipatory delineation of what could be an ecological civilisation respectful of its natural environment and social differences, and describes how to shift from an ‘arrogant speciesism’ and materialistic lifestyle to a post-anthropocentric ecological humanism focusing on the ‘good life’ within ecological limits. Whilst there are already countless research works and books dealing with this issue, the major novelty of this thesis is to propose a green republican analysis building on John Barry’s work that covers the ethical, political, and economic aspects of the transition away from ‘actually existing unsustainability’. Taking as a starting point the society as it is constituted today and not as it should be, that is a consumer capitalist society characterised by ecologically flawed ontological, ethical, and practical approaches, this dissertation presents a normative investigation concerned with the real world applicability of the changes it suggests to implement. Indeed, while rooted in ethical thinking and political philosophy, this thesis seeks to offer a concrete roadmap of how sustainable societies can be fostered. It, therefore, represents an attempt in the field of ‘realist utopianism’, that is a position committed to a transformative narrative which advocates humans’ reconciliation (and re-connection) with the planet and the more than human world. This work aims at integrating and synthesising across different bodies of knowledge such as Earth Systems Sciences (ESS), philosophy, political theory, political science, political economy, ecological economics, but also sociology, psychology, and cultural studies. In this regard, it is an interdisciplinary applied form of critical green political theorising.
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Republican political theory has received renewed interest in recent decades. Central to the definition of republicanism are the notions of freedom as non-domination, contestation, civic virtues, participation in the political life of the community, public over private interest, combatting all forms of corruption, and also the defence of a state based on the rule of law. Despite this renewed interest, republicanism has so far not given enough attention to the ecological challenges of the present. The intention of the five arti-cles that, together, constitute this dissertation is to help fill that gap in republican political theory. The dissertation compares different conceptions of freedom and how they allow room for the implementation of ecological limits that, as I argue, are required to move away from ecological unsustainability. The conclusion is that the republican conception of freedom as non-domination is better positioned to justify the implementation of ecological limits. This is an important analysis as ecological limits are often re-fused on the grounds that they are limiting freedom in an unacceptable way. The concept of green re-publicanism is discussed and presented as the subset of republican political theory that overlaps with green political theory. Green republicanism is non-neutral and interested in promoting conviviality, having as a key feature the promotion of post-productivism. An unconditional basic income (BI) is an important element of green republican theory. For this to be true, however, some conditions in the design of the BI need to be true. I thus confront two green cases of a BI, arguing that the current situation of multiple ecological crises will require the more radical of the cases and that parallel measures are required. Regarding the green republican goal of promoting post-productivism, a BI is compared with existing welfare regimes and with a green participation income. The conclusion is that depending on how it is defined, an unconditional basic income could contribute to post-productivism while being non-arbitrary, thereby obeying the green republican conditions.
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In some ways motivated by Andrew Dobson’s claim that ‘the form of citizens’ daily lives — their “participation” in the widest sense — is what shapes the contours of sustainability itself’,1 the key normative theories of green citizenship that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s seek to inform policy and practice by outlining the kinds of rights and/or duties that the political community and individuals should support. These normative theories elaborate different conceptions of ‘environmental’, ‘ecological’, ‘active’ or ‘critical sustainability’ citizenship. As in any debate over a concept, there exists some disagreement among the proponents of green citizenship about its most important aspects. This said, such disagreement is the product of collegial effort to gain clarity and build the robustness of the concept. Primarily, these differences centre on what is the best balance between ‘liberal’ rights to something from society and ‘civic-republican’ duties and responsibilities to society. As in general political theory, critics of the liberal position argue that it fails to make clear what citizens must contribute in order to benefit from the polity. Meanwhile, critics of the civic-republican view regard it as limited to describing obligations, without making clear how claims to the shared benefits of belonging to the polity should be apportioned. Green liberal perspectives are said to over-emphasize entitlements; conversely, civic-republican perspectives are criticized for expressing a kind of green-tinged ethico-moral authoritarianism.
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The Machiavellian Momentis a classic study of the consequences for modern historical and social consciousness of the ideal of the classical republic revived by Machiavelli and other thinkers of Renaissance Italy. J.G.A. Pocock suggests that Machiavelli's prime emphasis was on the moment in which the republic confronts the problem of its own instability in time, and which he calls the "Machiavellian moment." After examining this problem in the thought of Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and Giannotti, Pocock turns to the revival of republican thought in Puritan England and in Revolutionary and Federalist America. He argues that the American Revolution can be considered the last great act of civic humanism of the Renaissance. He relates the origins of modern historicism to the clash between civic, Christian, and commercial values in the thought of the eighteenth century.
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