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From environmental Malthusianism to ecological modernisation: toward a genealogy of sustainability

Wingate, David (2019) From environmental Malthusianism to ecological modernisation: toward a genealogy of sustainability. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Wingate D 2019 From environmental Malthusianism to ecological modernisation toward a genealogy of sustainability.pdf - Final eThesis - complete (pdf)
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Abstract

This is a genealogy of sustainability. It begins with a single discontinuity, observed throughout the literature: that there was once environmental Malthusianism, but now there is ecological modernisation. By working outward from this discontinuity, it is possible to trace the most significant events in the history of sustainability, from its emergence in thought and discourse, through to its present form. The discontinuity itself took the form of a three-stage process: the fall of Malthusianism, the vacuum it left behind, and the rise of ecological modernisation. In order to understand the fall of environmental Malthusianism it is necessary to trace its descent and unpick its emergence; in order to understand the rise of ecological modernisation, it is necessary to discern the conditions of possibility and the unique characteristics that determined its success. The story begins circa 1920, with the birth of ecology, and the ecological problematisation it brought with it. Ecology not only gave us ‘the’ environment as a single ontological object—and the environmentalism that seeks to protect it—but also provided us with the language and concepts with which to problematise our relationship with it. The first expression of this problematisation was environmental Malthusianism, but Malthusianism itself was a problematic discourse, built upon a relation of power exercised over women. With the rise of feminism came the fall of Malthusianism, and the vacuum in environmental politics was made. By then several decades had passed, and the vacuum was shaped by the political context of the 1980s. The new discourse of environmental politics had to be sufficiently different from its toxic predecessor, sufficiently developed as a policy discourse, and sufficiently compatible with the nascent politics of the time—and ecological modernisation was an ideal fit. What this genealogy shows is that the roots of sustainability are to be found in the ecological problematisation, and that its trajectory has been shaped by events that were often only indirectly related. Sustainability is a product of historical contingency; to understand sustainability is to understand the contingencies that determined its emergence.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Sustainability, environmental politics, environmental history, environmental philosophy, biological elitism, feminism, neo-liberalism, modernity
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds) > Sustainability Research Institute (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr David Wingate
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2019 10:53
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2019 10:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24646

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