The Solitary Walker in the Political World: The Paradoxes of Rousseau and Deep Ecology

Political Theory 34 (1):62 - 94 (2006)
Abstract
Rousseau argued forcefully for the superiority of a life lived in accordance with "the simplest impulses of nature," but his complex (some would say contradictory) understanding of the relationship between humans and "nature" is rarely cited as a source of inspiration by those seeking to reform the human relationship with the natural world. We argue that the complexities of Rousseau's political thought illuminate important connections between his works and the programs put forth by deep ecology. In Part One, we explore the theoretical connections between Rousseau's account of the human fall from nature and major works of radical environmentalism. In Part Two, we offer suggestions for a reconsideration of Rousseau's work that may illuminate the paradoxical political requirements of deep ecology's recommendations for a more ecological human life. We hope to illustrate how a careful reading of Rousseau's work may serve as the basis for fruitful questioning of environmentalist thought.
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