Environmental conflict and the legacy of the Reformation

Environmental Politics 29 (6):1042-1062 (2020)
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Liberal political theory seeks to enable diverse groups to coexist respectfully despite their differences. According to liberals, this requires embracing certain political institutions and refraining from imposing controversial views on others. The liberal formula has enjoyed considerable success. However, green political theorists insist liberal societies will precipitate an ecological crisis unless they are transformed in line with (controversial) green views. These perspectives highlight a longstanding gap in liberal theory. Liberalism rose to prominence only after Reformation-era Christians accepted that societal success did not require the ascendancy of any particular doctrine. Liberals never had to show how their recommendations could be reconciled with the once-common view that toleration would be catastrophic. Yet today’s greens once again anticipate catastrophe unless they can remake civilization around their doctrines. Liberals must find a way to respond to these concerns if they are to sustain their paradigm amidst environmental conflicts.



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Dan C. Shahar
Tulane University

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