Concern over environmental problems is prompting us to reexamine established thinking about society and politics. The challenge is to find a way for the public’s concern for the environment to become more integral to social, economic, and political decision making. Two interpretations have dominated Western portrayals of the nature-politics relationship, what John Meyer calls the dualist and the derivative. The dualist account holds that politics—and human culture in general—is completely separate from nature. The derivative account views Western political thought as derived from conceptions of nature, whether Aristotelian teleology, the clocklike mechanism of early modern science, or Darwinian selection. Meyer examines the nature-politics relationship in the writings of two of its most pivotal theorists, Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes, and of contemporary environmentalist thinkers. He concludes that we must overcome the limitations of both the dualist and the derivative interpretations if we are to understand the relationship between nature and politics.
Human thought and action, says Meyer, should be considered neither superior nor subservient to the nonhuman natural world, but interdependent with it. In the final chapter, he shows how struggles over toxic waste dumps in poor neighborhoods, land use in the American West, and rainforest protection in the Amazon illustrate this relationship and point toward an environmental politics that recognizes the experience of place as central.
About the Author
John M. Meyer is Professor in the Department of Politics and a Faculty Member in Environmental Studies and the Environment and Community Graduate Program at Humboldt State University. He is the author of Political Nature: Environmentalism and the Interpretation of Western Thought and the coeditor of The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice (both published by the MIT Press).
—Mark Sagoff, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Maryland
—Andrew Dobson, Professor of Politics, Keele University, UK
—Terence Ball, Arizona State University, author of Reappraising Political Theory
—Robert Pepperman Taylor, Department of Political Science and Director, John Dewey Honors Program, University of Vermont, author of Our Limits Transgressed: Environmental Political Thought in America
—Mary G. Dietz, Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
—Bryan G. Norton, School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology
CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book for 2002