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A Cultural Account of Ecological Democracy

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In the debate around ecological democracy, a pivotal point of contention has long been the question why democracy should actually be expected, as some claim, to deliver (more) ecological outcomes. This point is empirical as well as conceptual: it is difficult to conceive why voters would support any policies that - as is often (perceived to be) the case with environmental legislation - would leave them worse off; whilst democracy conceptually must remain open to all outcomes rather than being tied to any particular agenda ex ante. Yet both empirically and conceptually, the nature and extent of this key puzzle has always hinged on the particular definitions used. This paper reconsiders the link between democracy and ecological sustainability from a cultural angle: I argue that conceiving of both sustainability and democratisation as essentially cultural transformations resolves the puzzle and thus makes a renewed case for ecological democracy. Only as cultural processes - the creation of new meanings of sustainable prosperity in people's everyday lives, and a culturally rather than institutionally based form of democratisation - can these transformations be deep-seated rather than superficial, and thus self-perpetuating rather than merely enforced.

Keywords: Ecological democracy; culture; democracy; meaning-making; sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2020) of 2.518. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.313.
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