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Cover Politics

4. Democracy  

This chapter examines key aspects of democratic theory. It first defines what democracy means and traces the historical evolution of the term, from the time of the ancient Greeks to the French and American revolutions up to the nineteenth-century, when democracy began to take on more popular connotations in theory and practice. The chapter goes on to discuss the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy. It also considers alleged problems with democracy — relating to majoritarianism, its impact on economic efficiency, and its relationship with desired outcomes — before concluding with an analysis of the new directions democratic theory has taken in recent years, including associative, deliberative, cosmopolitan, and ecological versions of democracy.

Chapter

Cover The Politics of the Earth

12. Encountering the Anthropocene  

This chapter examines environmental discourses in light of recognition of humanity’s entry into the Anthropocene, an emerging geological epoch that dramatizes what is at stake in the politics of the Earth. The Anthropocene is the successor to the unusually benign and stable Holocene of the previous 12,000 years, during which human civilization evolved. The human institutions, practices, ideas, and discourses that still dominate the politics of the Earth all took shape under perceived Holocene conditions. The most important quality demanded of the configuration of environmental discourses is now a capacity to generate critical reflection on the trajectory of human societies in the context of an unstable Earth system. This will require meaningful deliberative and democratic engagement across discourses.

Chapter

Cover The Politics of the Earth

8. Industrial Society and Beyond  

Ecological Modernization

Countries such as Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland have apparently turned in some of the most successful environmental policy performance in recent decades. The reason has much to do with their adoption of ecological modernization discourse. This discourse is most at home in prosperous consensual democracies, though it has spread to many countries, including developing ones, as well as to global governance. Ecological modernization sees environmental protection and conservation implemented by government as good for business, and so economic growth. The slogan “pollution prevention pays” is prominent. Ecological modernization is largely a moderate technocratic discourses that stresses green re-tooling of the capitalist economy, though more radical “strong” versions exist that would contemplate thoroughgoing structural change that moves beyond the liberal capitalist status quo.