Friday, July 31, 2009

The Promise of Green Politics

A new favorite: Douglas Torgerson's now decade-old The Promise of Green Politics: Environmentalism and the Public Sphere. A remarkably lucid counter-pointing--deliberately not a "synthesis"--of Habermasian and Bakhtinian approaches to considering "what's really green." Torgerson is a political scientist--or better, a theoretician of policy studies--and develops a critical take on what he terms the "administrative mind," the official voice of policy-making institutions, duty-bound to be rational-instrumental in its pronouncements. Drawing on subversive (or is it wise?) currents in management science, Torgerson identifies the value of apparently irrationalist/spiritualist/carnivalesque currents--the counter-cultural humor of the Greens--in forming a "technology of foolishness" as a corrective to the solemn self-certainty of the Administrative Mind.

Torgerson also develops a subtle critique of "green movement"-centered thinking , no less susceptible to self-righteousness and monological closure. Green radicalism, he argues, is drawn to over-totalized shorthands--the "dominant paradigm, " the "world-view"--which can only be resolved by quasi-authoritarian total solutions, leading, in turn, to sectarian quarreling, where the most important difference is between the true radical and the traitorous compromiser. What gets stifled in this polarizing style is the density of communication and negotiation, precisely the dimension of the "public sphere" that needs to remain open.

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