Saturday, July 05, 2008

Green ideology

A discussion on political philosophy has arisen on the lists.

Political parties exist because of differing political philosophies.

The primary difference in political philosophy is the antithesis between
socialism and individualism, which latter is the basis of free
market capitalism. The economic corporation has made itself into an
individual in the eyes of the law, has become a "legal person"
(incidentally, a person with more rights than responsibilities). This
gives the left-right axis of the political picture. These two -isms are
mutually irreconcilable on their own terms, that is, when humanity is
viewed as existing in and of itself.

There is a second axis, between authoritarian and libertarian. These are also mutually irreconcilable, and also arise when humanity is viewed in the abstract.

The green political philosophy represents a huge break from the past, since it takes as its starting point, not an abstract view of what we are, (whether that be social, individual, free or needing to be controlled) but a realistic view of ourselves as existing in a living
and fragile environment. I do not think that we or anyone else have fully realised yet what a huge jump is represented by this "ecological" insight. It is fully as important as the Enlightenment in philosophical and historic terms. It is in the nature of philosophy that it is
regarded as pretty inconsequential or abstruse at the time it is introduced, and takes a few generations to work through into general consciousness. Unfortunately.

The interesting thing about starting our thought with ecological reality instead of an abstract concept of the nature of man is that we have a greater matrix that can resolve the antitheses that plague other political philosophies. Both societies and individuals must live within
the bounds of nature; their philosophical differences pale away in the light of the crises that we have created in our life support systems.

Libertarians must find their freedom limited by ecological axioms and laws. Authoritarians must recognise that their way always leads to bloodshed, because mankind evolved to earn our living from nature in co-operation with their group, not to give or take orders.

Arising from the ecological insight are the 3 axioms on growth, extraction and interconnectedness.

So the ecological insight is the trunk of the tree, the axioms generate
the branches, and the pages of the MfSS, if you like, are the leaves. It
all hangs together.

The Swedish Green Party activist Per Gahrton edited a book titled "Is
there a need for a Green Ideology?" My 2p worth on this aspect is up
here: http://greenerblog.blogspot.com/2008/05/is-there-green-ideology.html

It comes down to this: "There is a green ideology. It is the ideology of the heart, where the word “heart” means the totality of our human existence, where the myriad aspects of our human existence meet at a point, just as the colours of a white light spectrum can be traced back towards a point of origin, the “white light” source. “Heart” means the point at which all our structures and functions, those of our body, consciousness, emotions, cognition, our economic life, our laws, art and love form a unified significant being.

The unique point of the green philosophy is the realisation that “Man”, the author and subject of all philosophy, is not some god-like, self-subsistent being, but is one “component” of a web of life on Earth.

This living system can give us human contented and happy lives if, and only if, we can learn to live within the limits imposed by the biosphere, learn not to disturb the equilibrium of the planetary system.

2 comments:

Jim Jay said...

Very interesting - thanks Richard.

Personally speaking I'd say different parties exist because of the difference in social forces, and that can be solidified into specific political philosophies but the history of political parties shows how fluid those philosophies have been over time.

I think it's really important to start from the material conditions that gave rise to political philosophies although these philosophies can become important factors in themselves over time.

Richard said...

Hi Jim

Thanks for visiting. I agree with both your points.

The material conditions that we find ourselves in certainly condition the emergence of the Green political philosophy. We go further than Marx who rightly noticed the terrible condition of the environment of the workers; but our understanding now is of the serious condition of the total environment, not just of workers, but all other social classes and indeed all other sentient beings.

In the blue corner, of course, we have the CEOs of the multinational corporations, most of whom believe that they live in the best of all possible worlds, and intend to keep it that way. It looks as if their economic house of cards is about to bite the dust.

There is a two-way flow between ideas and material conditions. Correct understanding of the problems will change the economic approach, which will change the prevailing conditions. The question is not - "Is the new philosophy correct?", but "Does it have time to penetrate through to the stage of effective action?"