The Politics of the Extinction Predicament – Democracy, Futurity, and Responsibility

Jason Lambacher. "The Politics of the Extinction Predicment – Democracy, Futurity, and Responsibility." Diss., U of Washington, 2013.

Committee: Christine Di Stefano (Chair), Jamie Mayerfeld, Karen Litfin, Steve Herbert (GSR)

Dissertation abstract

My dissertation demonstrates how the “extinction predicament” – the inseparable connection between species loss and issues of social justice and development – can benefit from the critical resources of normative political theory, and especially from a green version of civic republicanism.  I argue that green civic republicanism’s emphasis on the common good, citizenship virtue, deliberation, and freedom as a form of social responsibility can help construct effective responses to species loss that are democratic and just.  I begin with the premise that species loss is a predicament beset by the task of linking ecological and social justice in a world with vast differences in wealth and power, and where novel connections between the global and the local are increasingly relevant.  Combining readings of Arendt on care for the earth, Jonas on responsibility to preserve ecological legacies, and several contemporary environmental political theorists whose work has bearing on the politics of human and non-human relationships, I argue for a non-foundational and pluralistic conception of green civic republicanism that resists the need for an a priori ethical grammar.  I stress that this approach can help to develop diverse forms of responsibility and agency that are inspired by the challenge of living within ecological limits.  That responsibility and agency may materialize differently in different contexts is a strength because a politics of biodiversity loss needs to reflect unique local conditions, mirroring the diversity it seeks to preserve.  Finally, green civic republicanism’s capability of reckoning with futurity is vital because species loss is likely to increase in the coming decades.  A democratic politics that connects ecological and social flourishing and is capable of multi-generational commitments is therefore imperative.  

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