A re-examination of the decentralist principle in green thought in light of global environmental challenges

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Title: A re-examination of the decentralist principle in green thought in light of global environmental challenges
Author: Bain, Allan
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science
Date: 2009-12-07
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/16369
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: The principle of decentralisation has always been an important element of green thought. By making the local the primary political unit, many greens believe that human-nature relations as well as human-human relations would be greatly improved. However, a number of green thinkers in the last twenty years have questioned this green commitment to decentralisation, with those involved in the green political theory (GPT) academic community being the most vocal. Although criticism of green decentralisation has taken a number of forms, the most interesting of these for the disciplines of political science and world politics is arguably the interest of most GPT writers in bringing the state back into green theorising. This move has been made in an effort to compensate for what GPT writers claim is a mistaken dismissal of the state in both pragmatic and, to a lesser extent, normative terms especially in relation to the politics of global environmental problems. This thesis discusses in depth the GPT reaction to the perceived flaws of traditional green decentralist thought and the latter s aversion to the state with the aim of defending, yet at the same time updating, the principle of decentralisation. In particular, GPT s contention that different environmental problems should be dealt with at different levels the local, state or international for example is given much attention. Such levels thinking is found wanting in a number of areas, not least in respect to how an environmental problem should be matched up to its correct political level. Whilst it is argued in the thesis that GPT s dissatisfaction with the green principle of decentralisation, as traditionally interpreted, is understandable, GPT writers are urged to reconsider the way in which they have kept some qualified decentralist sentiment in their work. Accordingly, the thesis offers an alternative approach to studying environmental problems which tries to update green decentralist thought by combining it with the insights of GPT and elements of green International Relations theory (GIRT). The result is the author s international centralisation approach. This approach conceptualises the international as a new sphere of centralisation and holds that a move away from this level is an act of decentralisation, even when this leads to an empowerment of the state. Thus the fixed meanings given to the terms centralisation and decentralisation in green thought including traditional green decentralist thought, GPT and GIRT are reinterpreted, giving rise to a dynamic and contextsensitive approach. It is argued in the thesis that a move away from the international level would allow global environmental challenges to be approached in a manner more consistent with traditional green thought.
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