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Environmental Deliberation and the Problem of Subjection

Jared Swanson

Friday, November 22, 2013 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

While green theorists and activists have historically been skeptical of the potential to persuade the democratic public to embrace an ecologically sensitive agenda for social and economic development, in recent years a growing number of writers inspired by Jürgen Habermas and the “deliberative turn” in democratic theory have challenged the assumption that rational discourse cannot produce a conversion of the democratic public to an ecological perspective.  

The prospect of an effective deliberative environmental politics, as attractive as it might be, however, still faces a serious obstacle insofar as many environmentally destructive practices or relationships are the objects of affective identity attachments for the subjects who participate in them.  

Drawing insights from a critical feminist theory of subjection, I argue that such identity attachments are often recalcitrant to rational criticism and that they can be manipulated to occlude the presentation of important environmental problems in open forums of public discourse.  

Examples from anti-GMO activism and the politics of hydro-electric power are given to illustrate the difficulties that residual identity attachments present to deliberative environmental politics and to highlight the need to supplement deliberation with extra-discursive practices of critique.

Hibbard-Swanson is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Willamette University, where he teaches environmental ethics and the history of philosophy.  Three days a week, he also  takes off the tweed jacket and puts on a straw hat to work as the manager of the Marion-Polk Food Share Youth Farm, a non-profit 2-acre urban farm that teaches offers local teens experience running a small farm business while educating the public about sustainable and fair food systems.  His research focuses on political, ethical, and educational issues relating to the environment.  


 


Milam Hall (campus map)
319
Corvallis
OR
Free
Robert Peckyno
541-737-8560
robert.peckyno at oregonstate.edu
School of History, Philosophy, and Religion
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