Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Green Politics is the only stable political philosophy

Politics is a particular set of political beliefs or principles concerned with government or governing.
The Green Party  is founded on the sure and certain belief that mankind is dependent on ecology, the study of our species in relation to the web of life that sustains our life.

Ecology includes the environment, but also includes our relationship with each other - the societal aspect. Economics must be founded on ecology. They are sister disciplines, since eco- relates to our habitat, -logy relates to study, and -nomics relates to administration.

This is why the Green Party, although small at this point in history, has the most important philosophical and realistic basis - a scientific basis, no less. The three main parties are based on ancient world views that are idealistic in the sense that they are based on ideas of mankind as a self-existent being.

Conservatism is based on individualism, the idea that the individual is the starting point of all thought.
The other two parties are moving towards this view, as this graph from the excellent Political Compass site shows:
All three main parties are migrating towards the authoriatrian/neo-liberal quadrant of the political compass. In the Political Compass analysis, the Green Party stands in the opposite, social/libertarian quadrant. I would add a third axis to the graph, of realism/idealism, producing a three-dimensional layout, which would show the Green Party firmly on the realistic arm.

The migration of the Labour and LibDem parties towards the Conservative position is an indication of the philosophical weakness of their position.

Socialism as an ideal suffered a body blow with the collapse of Communism. There is indeed such a thing as society, but human society is not a thing-in-itself, its existence is dependent on its environment. Without this ontological (existence-related) basis, socialism has no grounding, except as a set of rhetorical arguments. In the real political world, it crumbled in the face of the greater economic firepower of free-market capitalism.

Liberalism has an even weaker philosophical base. The common perception of Liberalism as an exercise in fence-sitting, on-the-one-hand-this-on-the-other-hand-that reflects the real philosophical situation: the idea of the free human being as the basis of political thought is flawed at the outset, because we are not free, our actions are constrained by environmental and social limitations. On the one hand, liberalism drifts towards neo-liberalism (the fount of free market fundamentalism), and on the other hand it drifts towards libertarianism.  So Liberal Democracy is an inherently unstable position. It is a syncretism of good ideals, (liberalism and democracy), but it has no anchor.

The Green Party is at pains to emphasise our belief in social justice and equity. This is in response to 30 years of media misrepresentation of our party as a single issue environmentalist party. However, we are not an environmentalist party with social justice beliefs. We are, if you like, a single issue ecological party, and from ecology flows the certainty of our belief that economics must be founded on ecology to produce sustainability, and also the certainty that society must become more equitable, for its own sake, so as to become healthy, and also because an equitable society is the only possible way of building a sustainable human civilisation. Eco-fascism is a contradiction in terms, since fascism always ends in conflict.

So Green Politics is the politics of the future, because without green politics human civilisation has no future as a civilised species. We will just be a bunch of individuals or tribal groups leading a nasty, brutish and short existence.


KRA said...

Thought provoking post Doc. Yes, Green philosophy has an elegant simplicity, and is unencumbered with ideological baggage. Which begs the question why on Earth are so many of your new party colleagues so disparaging of it. The Morning Star reports ‘What will surprise most people is that she is adamant that she did not join the Green Party for environmental reasons’ (
Unsurprisingly I disagree with your suggestion that Liberalism is a weak philosophy. Liberalism is concerned primarily with the distribution of power within society: we want to see a society in which individuals and communities have the maximum freedom to determine and pursue their own ends as best they can. A degraded natural environment places severe restrictions on this freedom, damaging personal health and quality of life; it impoverishes and weakens individuals and communities. This is as true for future generations as it is for present ones. So sustainability does not only lie at the heart of Liberal Democrat environmental policy, sustainability is not bolted on to Liberalism, sustainability is intimately tied to Liberal philosophy.

In your last paragraph you, rightly say climate change threatens our whole civilisation, then allude (I suspect) to Hobbes’s “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" – so Greens like some of that old world philosophy.

DocRichard said...

Hi David
I thought this might induce you to comment. Alex Phillips said: "What actually attracted me to the Greens was their policies on human rights and social justice," she explains.

"Yes, the environment was an issue, but not my biggest one at the time."

At the time. So I'm easy with that. She will gradually absorb the ecological paradigm. I have moaned elsewhere here about Greens who have a dualistic environment/social world view. But that's politics.

I can see how you derive environmental protection from your liberal principles, and I am sure that this works well for you. Similarly an individualist can derive a good ethical basis from using "enlightened self interest". Other individualists seem to skip this step, or have difficulty with it. Similarly, some Liberals go off on a neo-liberal/free market tangent. Hence the need for a Green Party.
I was on a panel with the LibDem candidate for Woodspring today. He was sound. I hope he can overthrow Dr Liam Fox.