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A Model of Value-Based Democracy as Condition of Ecological Sustainability

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1. We speak of economism in order to label an intellectual attitude, which affirms the power and the pretended right of economics to determine the whole of society. The neo-liberal view was essentially such an economism (but so were some streams of Marxism, as well as some of the alternative monetary systems, the believers of which think: “if the economy is in order, the whole of society is automatically in order”).

2. But there exists also an ecologism, which I would define as the intellectual attitude of those who have a highly developed ecological conscience and also a lot of knowledge about how to act in a better way with respect to nature, but not the essential insight that most of our ecological problems are not problems of nature, but of society, and consequently must be dealt with as problems of society and its institutions. (The Environmental Law Studies can be regarded as an exception from this ecological mainstream, under the condition that the juridical questions are not regarded as specialities, but as basic questions of the entire sociopolitical structure!)

3. Not only the pre-democratic nations at the limit of industrialization, but to a higher degree the “democratic” and fully industrialized nations have a fundamental lack of democratic institutions able to cope effectively with the ecological problems – and are lacking even consciousness of this fact. But this double lack, again, is not a special one, but concerns deeply the very understanding and development of democracy itself.

4. I see two main and principal deficiencies of our democracies (which we are not normally used to regarding as developing forms of government, but as a once-and-for-all achievement of social evolution). First, the whole of society depends structurally on economics. This is not any level of the entire society, but the decisive level – just as it is seen by the aforementioned economism. All our democracies, in their daily life, are not really based on human rights, human dignity and ultimate values, as they pretend to be, but on the ruling money system and its stock markets; the money system would be a discussion of current interest, but this is not my main topic here.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Democracy, Ecological Integrity and International Law
    Democracy, Ecological Integrity and International Law is the latest product of research by the Global Ecological Integrity Group (, an organisation that has been meeting annually since 1992 to discuss scientific, philosophical, political and legal aspects of ecological integrity. This collection examines various aspects of governance from the standpoint of integrity: from democracy, to forms of Native governance, from globalization and neocolonialism to specific human rights to food, water and climate.
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