Protecting the global commons: comparing three ethico-political foundations for response to climate change.
The ecological underpinnings of our world are at risk. Despite efforts by governments and the international community to set in place some protection for the global environment, industrialisation, economic development, and modern corporate-driven consumerist lifestyles are all contributing to the pollution that is driving climate change. According to the 2007 Assessment Report carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), since the start of industrialisation in the eighteenth century, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane) have markedly increased, primarily as a result of human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in agriculture and other land-uses. Closer to home, human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have increased globally by 70 percent between 1970 and 2004, with carbon dioxide levels increasing by 80 percent within this same period (IPCC 2007). The panel's report further details that 'atmospheric concentrations of C[O.sub.2] [carbon dioxide] and C[H.sub.4] [methane] in 2005 exceed by far the natural range of the last 650,000 years' (IPCC 2007, p. 37; cf. Global Carbon Project 2010). Indeed, while the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere prior to the industrial revolution was 280 parts per million (ppm), in 2008 it measured 385 ppm, with an annual increase of nearly 2 ppm; furthermore, since the year 2000 carbon dioxide emissions have been growing at four times the pace of the rate of the 1990s (Global Carbon Project 2010).
The consequences of this are manifold and alarming. The IPCC's 2007 Assessment Report, drawing on 29,000 observational data series from 75 studies, observes 'increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level' (IPCC 2007, p. 30). More specifically, this means a larger proportion of the Earth being affected by drought and extreme weather events such as tropical cyclone activity, the reduction and/or loss of glaciers and sea ice, rises in sea level with consequent increases in coastal erosion and losses of coastal wetlands and mangroves, as well as persistent changes to oceanic currents and levels of salinity. These effects in turn entail others such as reductions in fresh water supplies, a loss of biodiversity, the risk of large-scale species extinctions and coral reef destruction, and significant reductions in the capacity of natural systems to absorb greenhouse gases (IPCC 2007). All of these effects will drastically impact both natural ecosystems and human societies and economies.
Keeping global average temperatures to below an increase of 2 degrees Celsius--a commonly stated objective of governments so as to avoid the most dangerous impacts from climate change--would require cuts of at least 80 percent in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This would stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at about 400 to 470 ppm, but owing to the inertia of the climate system would not in fact mean the avoidance of significant adverse impacts from climate change (Tin 2008). Indeed, the current concentration of carbon dioxide of about 385 ppm in the atmosphere is considered 'already too high to maintain the climate to which humanity, wildlife, and the rest of the biosphere are adapted' (Hansen et al 2008, p. 15). The situation, then, is critical given that past and present greenhouse gas emissions make serious impacts from climate change inevitable, and that emissions are rising rather than falling globally (International Earth Agency 2006). What is at stake, then, is the global commons itself, in particular the Earth's atmosphere which is of common concern to all of humanity and all other life on Earth.
This situation--what we could call the tragedy of the atmospheric commons--demands immediate and effective response for the effects of climate change to be minimised, yet current proposals for response have been manifestly inadequate. This paper, then, outlines and contrasts three different ethico-political foundations for response: that constructed through the terms of state-centric international justice; that proposed under the logic of a global cosmopolitanism; and the array of responses collected under the umbrella of radical democracy. More particularly, the paper is concerned to delineate key overlaps and tensions between these three frameworks, to thereby not only make manifest some of the problems inherent in the current climate change response regime--so far founded primarily on the state-centric principles of international justice--but to evaluate the resources of radical democracy for their potential for developing stronger and more just responses to climate change/First, however, a reminder of the reasoning comprising the tragedy of the commons is pertinent, reasoning that although problematic does offer an initially useful frame for unpacking the issue of climate change.
The Tragedy of the Atmospheric Commons
First proposed by Garrett Hardin in 1962, the 'tragedy of the commons' is a metaphor for humanity's supposed inability to sustain a public resource that everybody is free to (over)use. For instance, Hardin asks us to '[p]icture a pasture open to all', and says regarding that common pasture that:
As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, 'What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?' This utility has one negative and one positive component.
1. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all of the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.
2. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.
Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit--in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. (Hardin 1968, p. 1244)
The tragedy of the commons, in other words, rests on a typical kind of cost-benefit analysis undertaken by self-interested persons, but in situations where resources are limited. For instance, when there is a shortage of any resource (e.g. energy, water) there is usually a call for its conservation. An individual, however, only benefits from practising restraint if everyone else restrains as well; and yet if everyone else does practice restraint then it may not make much of a difference if one individual does not. Furthermore, if one individual does practice restraint but no others do, then not only is that individual's attempt at conservation futile but the individual is worse off in, at least, the short term. As such it appears to be in everyone's individual self-interest not to conserve, and yet if everyone acts in accordance with their self-interest an overall negative outcome is assured. As this model exemplifies, then, one of the problems with responding to situations of limited resources is the tendency to prioritise short term over long term interests. (ii)
Although Hardin's model is open to criticism, (iii) it has been recognised as having particular pertinence for the issue of climate change for several reasons. First, climate change clearly exemplifies the issue of managing an overexploited global resource, where the imperative is to constrain its use so as to avoid its destruction. (iv) Second, Hardin's conclusion--that only a collective agreement, binding on all or most commons users, will be able to preserve the commons--has been widely utilised in the context of analyses of climate change policy to explain the ineffectiveness of anything less than a global response. (v) Third, as will be examined in more detail below, the current status of response to climate change is widely read as exemplifying the overriding of long term interests by short term interests. That is, although nation-states articulate a preference for limiting 'global emissions so as to reduce the risk of severe or catastrophic impacts, when acting individually, each still prefers to continue emitting unimpeded' (Gardiner & Hartzell-Nichols 2012; cf. Gardiner 2011; Helm 2008; Soroos 1997).
Further exacerbating the tragedy of the commons in the context of climate change is the fact that this problem of prioritising interests spans generations. More specifically, given the time lag for the effects of greenhouse gas emissions to be fully felt, particularly in developed countries, '[m]uch of the damage inflicted by energy consumption is by current generations on future generations' (Gardiner 2002, p. 402). As Stephen Gardiner describes the situation, 'whereas the present generation both causes the environmental damage and reaps the rewards, most of the costs fall on future generations' (403). (vi) Additionally, damage to the atmospheric commons is neither clearly visible nor attributable in the eyes of the majority of the present generations (in the developed world), points utilised to great effect by climate change sceptics. Furthermore, the benefit of restraint--of conserving the atmospheric commons--itself lies in a seemingly distant future. Restraint should therefore perhaps be described as either the kind of investment best understood as a donation to charity (Milinski et al 2006, p. 3995) or a trust (Attfield 2004). In either case the beneficiaries are future human generations, not to mention, as Attfield reminds us, future generations of 'other species as well, including those yet to evolve' (2004, pp. 45-46).
Assessing the Situation and the Response So Far
Considering the atmospheric commons under Hardin's framework, then, a negative outcome seems increasingly difficult to avert. Indeed the IPCC and other agencies predict increases in global temperatures under most emissions scenarios, increases that will impact profoundly on all natural ecosystems and human societies and economies (Muller 2002, p. 3). The question is thus what is required for an effective response to this situation. How can the tragedy of the atmospheric commons be averted? Here it first of all seems evident that what is required is collective action at both national and international levels insofar as climate change itself is an inescapably global and multi-faceted problem. Indeed the situation has called both nation-states and international bodies into action, culminating in an array of intra-state government policies (vii) designed to tackle (and mitigate) climate change and its effects within sovereign borders, primarily through the stabilisation and reduction of the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (viii) Such policies are additionally interlaced with international conventions and protocols aiming to mobilise nation-states to work fairly and effectively together. Of this latter, what has tended to mobilise international climate change conventions and protocols so far are concerns of international equity (cf. Grubb 1995), specifically a focus on addressing disparities between nation-states with regards to such issues as wealth or perceived responsibility. What has thus been at the heart of international responses to climate change so far is typically an ideal of environmental or ecological justice which aims to ensure that environmental benefits and burdens are shared and distributed fairly among the various nation-states. (ix) This distribution is premised on an assumption of 'common but differentiated responsibility' initially described in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development:
States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command. (United Nations 1993, principle 7)
International protocols regarding climate change thus tend so far to set differentiated national targets, typically establishing specific emissions targets for developed countries without requiring the same commitment from developing countries. In other words, the international response to climate change targets states, but only on the understanding--as set out in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration--that 'standards which are valid for the most advanced societies ... may be inappropriate and of unwarranted social cost for developing countries' (United Nations 1972, principle 23).
Taking this notion of differentiated responsibility as a driver for the global response to climate change has been problematic, however, as its state-centric focus has meant that global responsibilities have become seemingly inextricably entangled with questions of national interest. (x) Here it is worth remembering that the international system we take for granted is one of nation-states operating in accordance with fundamental principles set out initially in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648; principles to do with territoriality, sovereignty and non-interference. As Nigel Dower puts it, key imperatives of the Westphalian 'morality of states'--imperatives still informing and guiding current international engagements--include respecting the 'sovereignty, autonomy and independence of other states', not interfering or intervening in the 'internal affairs of other states' and not harming other states (2007, p. 59). Significantly, as Dower stresses, there is actually 'no duty in general to promote the global common good, the good of other states or the good of individuals living in other states' (59). In other words, and in alignment with the assumptions powering Hardin's tragedy of the commons model, the international regime permits states to focus on what is in their own interest, with each having the right to
determine its own political, economic, cultural and social systems, to develop its international relations and to exercise permanent sovereignty over its national resources, in accordance with the will of its people, without outside intervention, interference, subversion, coercion or threat in any form whatsoever. (United Nations 1981, para. 1(a))
Fundamental to modern conceptions of both states and international relations, these principles have proved problematic for addressing global problems such as climate change. Even when trying to address trans-boundary environmental problems, states have ended up 'devising and agreeing to treaties and instruments that promote their individual and collective interests' (Harris 2010, p. 70). This has seen proposed international responses to climate change hobbled by an ongoing and time-consuming debate over establishing 'acceptable' differentiated levels of responsibility for the problem (to thereby establish responsibility as to which states should bear the burden of addressing it and to what extent), a continued privileging of national economic development over effectively addressing the global problem of climate change, and hence an ongoing waiting game regarding who will go first in committing to such actions as stringent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions given the foreseeable costs of doing so. (xi) Aaron Maltais sums this problem up as follows:
Because it is the total global reductions in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions (and not where these reductions take place) that has an effect on climate conditions, individuals, companies, and states all have self-interested reasons to free-ride by letting others take on the costs of mitigation while they themselves continue to enjoy the benefits of those activities that cause atmospheric pollution. (Maltais 2008, p. 599)
Along with these problems resulting from the ideal of differentiated responsibility there are others. First, and still related to the issue of differentiated responsibility, is that as less affluent states develop economically, they themselves are becoming new major sources of greenhouse gases, surpassing now even the developed states in aggregate (Global Carbon Project 2008). For example, while the developing countries have contributed only approximately 20 percent of cumulative historical carbon dioxide emissions since 1756, from 2005 they have produced over half (53 percent in 2007) of global emissions (Global Carbon Project 2008). That is, between 1990 and 2005, as Richard Perkins observes, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 86 percent in developing countries compared to a 16 percent increase in developed countries, and he cites the International Energy Agency which estimates that 'approximately three-quarters of the increase in global C[O.sub.2] [carbon dioxide] emissions up to 2030 will take place in developing countries'. As Perkins continues, this means that 'even if developed countries were to make deep emissions cuts (60 to 80 percent by 2050), the goal of avoiding dangerous climate [change] may still elude the international community' (Perkins 2008).
On the other hand, the engagement of the developing world raises further issues of fairness. For instance, although the perceived lack of meaningful participation by the developing world kept the 1997 Kyoto Protocol unratified until 2004 (this was the criticism underpinning the United States' refusal to ratify), (xii) there is significant inequity recognised via the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibility'--in asking both developed and developing countries to invest in similar emissions cuts. This was expressed clearly by the head of China's National Development and Reform Commission in mid-2007: '[i]t is neither fair nor acceptable to us to impose too early, too abruptly, or too bluntly measures which one would ask of developed countries' (Ford 2007). The key points here are firstly that although developing countries are 'catching' up to developed countries with regards to their emissions, historical responsibility for the current level of emissions in the atmosphere rests primarily with the developed world, giving rise to a 'polluter should pay' argument. Under this model, the onus should be placed on those countries that 'put greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in past decades to reduce their emissions quickly', whilst developing countries concentrate on their economic development and meeting the welfare needs of current generations (Parks & Roberts 2008, p. 624). (xiii) This point is further emphasised by the current differential vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, with populations in Africa, Asia and Latin America already suffering disproportionately from climate related disasters (IPCC 2007). (xiv) Given that developing countries are already 'suffering from rising sea levels, devastating droughts and storms, lower agricultural yields and increased disease burdens', they are 'unlikely to be enthusiastic about cleaning up an environmental problem that the industrialised world created in the first place' (Parks & Roberts 2008, pp. 625-626). In their eyes, the issue is one of an environmental debt that should be paid by the developed world.
Overall, state-centric and state-interested reasoning (typically driven by the interests of developed rather than developing countries) seems to be at the heart of the climate change policy regime, with such state interests themselves entailing a past and current lack of leadership in effectively--and justly--addressing climate change at either state or global levels, (xv) a lack in leadership which has meant that initial (albeit probably unrealistic) aims of averting climate change have had to be changed to those of mitigating and adapting to it. This lack has furthermore meant that relative to the scale of the problem and its anticipated impacts on human and nonhuman life and ecosystems, what has been achieved so far is inconsequential and certainly cannot achieve the desired outcome. As James Speth laments, 'global environmental problems have gone from bad to worse [and] 4governments are not prepared to deal with them' (Speth 2008, p. 72). This raises the question therefore as to 'whether nation-states, individually and collectively, can be trusted to pursue policies in the interests of the planet as a whole' (Heater 1996, p. 143).
Other Contributing Factors
There are additional factors contributing to the ineffectiveness so far of the climate change response regime. For instance, there is the disconnect between the attributes promoted by the form of neo-liberal consumerism instantiated in economic globalisation and those needed for an effective response to climate change, and the problem of associated assumptions regarding the relations of economic growth, technological innovations and quality of life. The first of these issues concerns the impact of neoliberalism on the relationship of the state to its citizens. That is, given its endorsement of free market choice and profit-making--for neoliberalism the market is thought to be 'morally and practically superior to government' (Heywood, 2003, p. 55)--neoliberalism constructs people as self-interested 'consumers, profit maximizers and rent seekers' (Dryzek 2000, p. 76). What is problematic about this is not only that a consumer society 'promotes [material] acquisition as the standard of what is good' (Singer 1997, p. 20)--contributing to increases in global pollution--but that consumerism as a whole is not an effective basis from which to confront problems not oriented to 'consumer rights of individual protection and choice' (Slocum 2004, p. 766). As Thomas Wilhelmsson (1998) notes, consumer interests in profit-making, material affluence and having a choice of cheap products can often conflict with the aims of environmental protection required of any effective response to climate change. (xvi)
A related issue concerns pervasive assumptions regarding the interconnectedness of economic growth, scientific and technological innovation, material progress and standards of living. The first point to note here is that, founded upon Enlightenment ideals of progressive improvements in the human condition and its associated celebration of the scientific revolution (see Gay 1996), the period of modernity is marked by an assumption of a 'link between scientific research and material progress', a link entailing an increasing 'dependence on science and technology to sustain economic growth and standards of living' (Pardo & Calvo 2002, p. 160), as well as to 'solve the problems of social injustice brought about by industrial society' (Hennen 1999, p. 303). Certainly public attitudes to science became increasingly ambivalent with the progression of the twentieth century but economic globalisation (and its associated endorsement of consumerism) has effectively entrenched connections between science, technology, industry, continued economic growth, material progress and rising standards of living.
Such connections are clearly illustrated by the driving of the intra-state and international policy regime by a principle of 'environmental sustainability' and/or 'sustainable development' (Grist 2008), itself interpreted in terms of 'ecological modernization'. As, that is, an attempt to resolve the 'traditional tension in environmental politics between striving for economic growth and protecting the environment' (Catney & Doyle 2011, p. 4). (xvii) This has meant that intra-state and international policy has been informed by the assumptions that a) economic growth can be decoupled from environmental harm, and b) economic growth, via the technological innovations it drives, holds the answer to re-balancing the environment. (xviii) Such views in turn promote the idea that because science and technology will effectively deliver an effective address of climate change (through clean coal, for instance, or the geological sequestration of carbon dioxide or the delivery of a hydrogen economy), there can be 'business as usual' on the part of individuals, corporations and states until that time. (xix) Indeed, such a view seems an inevitable outcome of this series of assumed connections insofar as proposing an alternative view appears to entail for many the proposition of nothing less than the 'transformation of the economic system' as well as of our modes of being in the world and understanding existence (Heywood 2003, p. 290). (xx)
The presumed impossibility of such a transformation and the promotion of 'business as usual' is also exacerbated by what Swyngedouw and others have called the post-political (xxi) status of the climate change policy regime, insofar as this policy regime--itself understood to be consensually legitimated by scientific knowledge--calls for and instantiates the expert administration of the environmental and social domains in the pursuit of 'environmentally sustainable socio-ecological practices' (Swyngedouw 2009, p. 608). Under this framework what is prioritised is the negotiating and regulating of policy with relevant stakeholders and the managing of any dissensus so that it does not compromise this process. These objectives in turn entail the unquestioned acceptance of core neoliberal assumptions: of 'neoliberal capitalism as an economic system' and hence the translation of sustainable development as ecological modernisation, and of 'parliamentary democracy as the political ideal, [and] humanitarianism and inclusive cosmopolitanism as a moral foundation' (Swyngedouw 2009, p. 609).
A further factor contributing to the practice of 'business as usual' is the seeming disconnect between the practices of individuals and the interactions of states, a disconnect that Hardin's conception of the tragedy of the commons highlights. This disconnect can be seen in the default response Hardin identifies as common to individuals when faced with such large-scale problems as the ruin of the commons: the 'I'm only one person, my practices don't make that much of a difference' response. This is the perceived disconnect between individuals' private practices and national and international responses, a disconnect that can be further exacerbated when the inadequacy of national and international responses itself disincentivises individuals from developing more sustainable practices. Finally such endorsements of 'business as usual' seem to mean that the overwhelmingly ineffective nature of the state-centric international response to climate change is not being comprehensively challenged. (xxii) It seems again that short term interests (and fears) are overriding the risk of long term ruin. How, then, is this model of (non)response to be changed? David Holmgren (2009), addressing the intersecting of climate change with the implications of peak oil, suggests that one of the difficulties with current responses to either (and both) has been the lack of visible alternative frameworks, with the picture often being drawn as demanding a choice between 'business as usual' and the collapse of civilisation (cf. Swyngedouw 2010). The remainder of this paper thus aims to outline and compare two alternative ethico-political frameworks for conceptualising both the problem of climate change and possible responses to it, and to see whether they can propose methods for addressing the problem of climate change as well as enabling a productive re-visioning of human being in the world. Our challenge, after all, is to 'find ways of living rich, complex, creative, non-repetitive lives without social injustice and without too much environmental damage' (Soper 2004, p. 58).
[O]ne consequence of the communitarian Westphalian norms and the international doctrine upon which these agreements [to do with environmental and natural resource issues] have been based is that states have usually not arrived at effective means to protect natural resources and the environment when doing so might undermine states' perceived national interests. (Harris 2010, p. 99)
Given the current lack of success of state-centric international protocols and treaties to address climate change, an increasing number of political thinkers have been suggesting that a change in approach is required. As Dower has put it, 'there is an urgency about creating much stronger norms both in the cultures of communities and [in] the working practices of states. These cultures and practices are vital, but the arguments for creating them come from, and must come from, elsewhere' (2007, p. 184). One such 'elsewhere' is to be found in a cosmopolitan framework that puts the stress on people as well as on states and the international regime. As David Held has described it, cosmopolitanism is oriented around eight key principles: '(1) equal worth and dignity; (2) active agency; (3) personal responsibility and accountability; (4) consent; (5) collective decision-making about public matters through voting procedures; (6) inclusiveness and solidarity; (7) avoidance of serious harm; and (8) sustainability' (2005, p. 12). Under this framework what matters the most are relations between people according to which 'we are required to respect one another's status as ultimate units of moral concern--a requirement that imposes limits on our conduct and, in particular, on our efforts to construct institutional schemes' (Pogge 2008, p. 175). This requirement also means that moral consideration and action cannot justifiably be limited to members of any particular groups or restricted by state borders. As Held therefore insists, basing actions on such statements as '"I like it," "it suits me [or my group]," "it belongs to male prerogatives," "it is in the best interest of my country"' is profoundly unjustifiable, arguing instead that principles and actions must 'be defensible from a larger, human standpoint' (2005, p. 22). Cosmopolitanism, in other words, advocates a 'global ethic and duties of global justice in contrast to the selective ethics of nation states [that] are liable to prioritise some territories, environments, and ecosystems'--and therefore some interests of some peoples--over others (Attfield 2004, p. 41). On this basis--and here remember Held's eighth principle of sustainability--it also stresses the need for all persons and for public policy (at both national and international levels) to take account of the limited, finite nature of the world's resources, remembering thereby that such resources are the commons for not only past and present but future generations.
With regard to climate change, then, cosmopolitanism delivers a strong critique of the assumptions driving current national and international responses. Through cosmopolitan eyes, arguments prioritising the interests of nation states, of some over others, are simply wrong-headed. Because of the global nature of environmental problems, and because climate change fundamentally jeopardises human wellbeing, 'rather than thinking about the problem of the global environment as one that involves duties of justice that obtain between states', cosmopolitans argue that 'we should instead think of it as one that involves actions and responsibilities among individuals and institutions who are related in a variety of different ways' (Jamieson 2002, p. 306). Cosmopolitans, in other words, would typically accept Singer's principle that 'if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it' (1996, p. 28). They would then argue that as there is nothing more important that the ecological health of the global commons, protecting the global commons is therefore an obligation that bears on all persons who possess this power. It is on this basis that Harris (2010) concludes that all affluent persons--such persons having the capacity to change their behaviour--are obligated to act so as to mitigate climate change.
Given that our personal practices of consumption in our drive for material affluence are very much part of the drivers of climate change (Elliott 2006), and noting the rise in numbers of consumers globally, (xxiii) it is obvious that persons should be held accountable for their actions. Thus as Harris (2010) argues, cosmopolitanism can address one of the problematic silences in the state-centric regime of international justice, that concerning the practices and accountability of new consumers from the developing world. Such a group faces, as Harris notes, 'few if any legal obligations to mitigate the harm' it does to the global environment, and has 'so far almost entirely escaped moral scrutiny' (2010, p. 122). For cosmopolitanism, then, all individuals should be the locus of climate change action and justice. This of course is not to say that individuals should not be differentiated with regards to their capacities to act so as to mitigate climate change, or that institutions and states should not still be held accountable for practices destructive of the global commons and required to change them. The point is rather that all of those--whether individuals, institutions, states, international bodies or multinational corporations--'who are in a position to prevent or mitigate climate change are responsible for doing so regardless of their causal contributions' or their location (Jamieson 1997, p. 117). Cosmopolitans, in other words, argue for forms of global citizenship and distributive justice able not only to provide limiting conditions for selective interests but draw the responsibility for action back onto individuals who recognise that their particularist interests, relations and responsibilities cannot trump their relations and responsibilities to strangers and future generations (Tan 2006).
The difficulty is in how to galvanise these individuals into action, a difficulty registered but not dispelled by either the state-centric response of international policy or that of cosmopolitanism. That is, despite elaborating a nuanced and detailed critique of the state-centric international protocols and treaties devised to address climate change, cosmopolitanism too struggles to bridge the gap between recognisable responsibilities or duties and actions. (xxiv) Neither model seems able to galvanise individuals into action, a problem perhaps attributable to the fact that, although arguing for a global ethic, cosmopolitanism--when pressed to action--seems often to end up investing back into the same state-based formulae for action (see, e.g., Harris 2010) that all too easily end up giving precedence to states' rights to protect their short-term economic national interests over any long-term transnational obligations to minimise harm to the global commons. (xxv) Additionally, cosmopolitan thinkers have also typically argued from the basis of the ideal conditions required for achieving distributive justice: shared impartial rationality, the capacity for individuals and states to over-ride personal and national preferences, fair impartial and participatory decision-making procedures with which to achieve reasoned debate and eventual consensus, and a recognised equality of persons. (xxvi) The problem is, the absence of such ideal conditions has meant not only a lack of consensus as to appropriate and effective action--this same lack of consensus at state and transnational levels hobbles attempts to develop effective and binding international climate change protocols but the focus being placed on efforts to develop such conditions over actually attempting to respond directly and effectively to climate change. It is as if emphasising the ideal conditions for action means that such conditions need to be realised before any action can be legitimately decided upon and taken. Such ideals mean, in other words, delays.
Radical Democracy: A Basis for Action?
The imperative to respond to climate change is clear, and yet effective and systematic response is still lacking. In a key sense the problem can be seen to arise from the difficulties of attributing the responsibility for action and setting its parameters; in particular, this has been a point of contention at the level of international policymaking, the revisioning of which has been a prime focus for cosmopolitan thinkers. The trouble is this revisioning of responsibility --while certainly important--is not action either. What seems essential, then, is establishing a basis and imperative for action that does not require the meeting of ideal conditions as seen as integral to both state and international policy-making. In other words, accepting the cosmopolitan reminder that responsibilities are held by individual agents as well as by national and international bodies, how might these individuals be brought to action?
A second point of concern is common to both the state-centric policy regime and cosmopolitanism, and relates to the lack of recognition of the problematic intersecting of the effects of climate change with those of economic liberalisation, globalisation, conflict, health risks and traditional gender roles in, for instance, developing countries (Nelson et al 2002; Terry 2009). That is, while the effects of climate change clearly interact with and exacerbate other types of inequity, systemic intersectionality is still not a mainstreamed issue in current state-centric policy. For instance, not only does the current market-based policy regime exclude poor people generally, it also is inherently gender-inhospitable, given traditional gender roles and women's restricted access--compared to men's--to resources such as land, credit and information. (xxvii) In addition, the cosmopolitan belief that all individuals everywhere have an equal responsibility to mitigate climate change, as long as they possess the present capacity to do so, and that all such participants are equally empowered in this process, is problematic. That is, cosmopolitanism--in calling for a global ethic and global duties across a domain of differentiated impact and responsibility--itself does not always itself recognise the implications of intersectionality, paying inconsistent attention, for example, to the issue of compensatory justice for those who are already in a disadvantaged position. In Catney and Doyle's words, within the cosmopolitan worldview of 'one global citizenry, it is imagined that boundaries between the haves and the have-nots, the territories delineating the rich from the poor, melt away into the air' (2011, p. 17). Of course, they do not.
It is in response to these issues that the array of ideas and arguments clustered under the umbrella of radical democracy might offer some productive pathways. Typically contrasted with liberal and deliberative theories and practices of democracy, radical democracy distinctively claims that democracy is best understood firstly as a radicalising of the political activities and potentialities of ordinary citizens, and secondly as the recognition that the political is constitutively a 'practice of contestation and disagreement' (Lloyd & Little 2009, p. 7). More specifically, Moya Lloyd and Adrian Little take radical democracy to encompass the following features:
* that democracy is understood as a fugitive condition or open-ended process, and thus perpetually amenable to disruption and renewal;
* that the political is apprehended as ontologically conflictual or contestatory;
* that civil society rather than the state is construed as the principal, even exclusive, site of democratic struggle;
* that democracy is not a form of government or set of institutions but rather a moment marking the practice of politics itself; and
* that radical democratic politics is oriented towards the contestation of prevailing regimes of cultural intelligibility (and thus exclusion). (Lloyd & Little 2009, pp. 3-4)
What is significant about this description is that under this umbrella, the dynamic of democratic practice is brought into view and interrogated. This in turn interrogates the parameters and performance of the demos with regard to the impact of and obligation presented by pluralism, difference and the ideals of justice. (xxviii) In other words, what is most significant about radical democracy is its focus on citizens' performative political engagement; their consequent ongoing production of both the demos and democratic practice; and their consequent work of managing pluralism and difference without falsely dichotomising the demos into essentialist camps of insiders and outsiders. (xxix)
In emphasising the inevitable presence of pluralism and difference in every contracted or dreamed of unity and identity, radical democracy promotes a practice of articulation, understood as the aligning of diverse interests 'but only ever according to a contingent set of identifications that remain open to contestation' (Barnett 2004, p. 507). This means in turn that radical democracy, as the open promise of and for democracy, does not--cannot--demand uniformity or homogeneity in its activism. Constitutively plural, it is the recognition that just as priorities change according to context, so too do articulations of injustice and strategies; suggesting that it has the capacity to recognise and respond to multiple intersecting inequities. Indeed, when described in these dynamic and active terms, radical democracy is itself indistinguishable from democratic activism; activism informed by the promise of democracy, (xxx) responsive to current injustices and articulated through the practices of individuals. Radical democracy is thus democratisation, an 'endlessly unfolding process of societal, institutional, interpersonal transformation' (Flacks 1996, p. 104; cf. Critchley 2005, p. 230), and all it needs are activists in a 'democratic state of mind' (Lummis 1996, pp. 22, 35). Radical democracy is thus both unapologetically a radically open and a non-ideal theory, (xxxi) meaning that it does not wait on the formulation and achievement of 'ideal background conditions' (such as new technologies) or on the negotiation of consensus. Rather, it is historically and concretely situated and responsive; it has a past and is 'as much a matter of setting things right as of getting them right' (Ackerly 2008, p. 45). It has, in other words, a dual focus on not simply rectifying past mistakes, but also on setting things up, on calibrating things so as to allow radical democratic practices to take hold from situation to situation. It reminds us that our neoliberal capitalist regimes are not themselves beyond democratisation, that further democratisation will always be necessary against not only the consensual horizon of the state or of any policy regime, but even against its own achievements.
There are two issues here. First the subject (and agent) of radical democracy is of course always already historically embedded, but significantly the mode of this embeddedness is performative and interconnected. That is, radical democrats--democratic activists--are identifiable as such only through their performance as such; they are their practices and thereby discursively, performatively and contingently constructed. (xxxii) In addition this practice is constitutively intersubjective with radical democrats inextricably interconnected with each other, working strategically together. Second, in taking place outside of recognised state institutions, (xxxiii) this intersubjective practice of radical democracy offers a productive way of describing the work of many of the local, small-scale, community-led and democratically-framed responses to climate change. After all, not only do such responses clearly arise outside of the various protocols under debate and regulation at state and international levels, but--insofar as they do not simply comprise 'identitarian, multiple and ultimately fragmented communities' (Swyngedouw 2009, p. 615), rather connecting people's private actions with broader democratic objectives regarding equity and justice (xxxiv)--they challenge the 'I'm only one person' viewpoint typical of the tragedy of the commons. (xxxv) As such, as radical democrats, people do not have to be galvanised into political action; they are already involved and active and responding to concrete problems in their world. (xxxvi) Furthermore, such actions are also already visible as those for building and maintaining strong and environmentally (and economically) sustainable communities, where the 'we' of the community can only be partial, provisional and highly contingent, and sustainability is not held rigidly to any preconceived ideal. Such communities may have strategic plans but these are always open to transformative renegotiation and furthermore do not rule out other kinds of action carried out within and by other networks. That is, the parameters and demos of any such community are never fully determinative of possible actions and beings-together.
Responding to Climate Change
Opened to and by radical democracy, then, response to climate change cannot be derailed by intersectionality, proceduralist collapses or the 'I'm only one person' tragedy of the commons' default position. Nonetheless, this perspective does ask people to recognise themselves as constitutively performative, as intersubjectively interconnected participants in their world, participants for whom justice, equity and living sustainably together matters (where sustainability is itself open to re-envisioning). As such, it is unapologetically local (which is not to say that local connections cannot cross national borders). This of course could give rise to the criticism that, because of radical democracy's focus on the non-ideal and the local, as opposed to the ideal and the abstractly universal, it cannot guarantee effective collective ethico-political action. There are, I think, three responses that can be made to this challenge. First is to stress that insofar as radical democrats already accept their constitutive interconnectedness, they do already accept a causal interconnectedness and responsibility in the struggle to achieve environmental sustainability. (xxxvii) To put this otherwise, a key common good promoted by radical democrats is the protection and promotion of radical democratic practice--of democratisation--in both the short and long term, an aim that cannot be separated from the promise of justice in both concrete and futural terms.
The second productive aspect of a radical democratic perspective is that it does not constitutively operate at the expense of state-centric, international or cosmopolitan regimes. Rather it can be seen as complementing--not to mention further transformatively democratising--these regimes, comprising an ethico-political process able thereby to re-institute the ethical imperative for action into both state-centric and cosmopolitan attempts so as to better recognise and respond to intersectional injustices, and thereby better conceptualise and realise the ideals for ecological justice. That is, radical democratic practices perhaps hold the potential for also enabling collective action at national and international levels, action potentially able to productively challenge and modify the policy regime. Radical democracy also reminds us that just because we have not come up with, let alone implemented, the ideal distributive solution to climate change, this does not mean that we are not obligated to act, even if we can only do so with imperfect non-ideal vision. It reminds us that even though such ideals are constitutively unrealisable, (xxxviii) they can nonetheless effectively and productively disrupt and contest limiting regime assumptions and contexts, and re-envision such narratives as sustainability.
The third productive aspect of a radical democratic perspective also relies on the commensurability of these practices with the key cosmopolitan assumption that individuals and their inter-relations are the ultimate units of moral concern. This is the point that radical democracy can not only offer ideas and frameworks for responding to such tragedies of the commons as climate change, but can also exemplify productive re-visionings of human being in the world, modes of being that emphasise our dynamic relationality and performativity in a non-ideal world. In not requiring the meeting of any ideal conditions, or the setting up of or agreeing to any social contracts, or the stifling of dissenting or alternative viewpoints, or even the finding of inarguable justifications as to why self-interested atomistic individuals should choose to work together, radical democracy opens the way for a being in the world that is adaptive, resilient, constitutively collective, and able to deliver multi-faceted responses to such global issues as climate change, responses that engage and interrelate all levels of collectivities, from family, to community, to state, to international.
What all this means, then, is that just as cosmopolitan thinkers can remind the state-centric international regime of the need to engage with individuals, radical democracy reminds both the international and cosmopolitan regimes of the needs to operate in non-ideal conditions and to democratise even against the consensual horizon of state and international policy. It recognises both our constitutive interconnectedness and that democratising action and activism support continued contestations of the assumptions and norms that underpin how we live. Radical democratic logic, in other words, is a social logic, an ethico-political logic and promise that is not tied to the false dichotomies of 'business as usual' versus a presumed collapse of civilisation, or that of state-centric versus abstractly global human well-being. Finally, I would argue, as a critical, justice-driven and responsive practice, as encompassing a potential for democratisation that is neither able to be completely ruled out nor guaranteed, radical democracy offers a perspective for dissensus, for contesting and re-envisioning the givens of the policy regime. Not an alternative as such to either the state-centric or the cosmopolitan frameworks, it is the open contestation of and challenge to them both. In light of the current climate change policy regime, radical democracy explicitly opens this regime to the possibility and the imperative of both justice and new and different socio-environmental futures.
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School of Education and Arts, University of Ballarat
(i) I am grateful for the comments of and discussions with my colleagues in the School of Education and Arts at the University of Ballarat, in particular Marnie Nolton and Terry Eyssens, as well as for the comments of the two anonymous borderlands referees and Simone Drichel of the borderlands editorial team.
(ii) Andrew Fiala includes a useful elaboration of this kind of cost-benefit analysis in the context of climate change. See 'Nero's fiddle: on hope, despair, and the ecological crisis' (2010, pp. 59-61).
(iii) Hardin's view of human self-interest and economic rationality as innate and inevitably leading to tragedy is controversial, and has been criticised on a number of fronts. These include his assumption that the commons could only be maintained through two state-established institutional arrangements: centralized government and private property; his understanding of the commons; his lack of consideration of social and moral behaviours, of community-based and/or cooperative resource management; his assumption that resource users are aware of their contribution to resource degradation; his assumption that the human world population has the inherently tragic structure of unrestricted growth.
(iv) Hardin's conception of the tragedy of the commons has been utilised as a framework for evaluating the problem of climate change in a number of instances. See, for example, Kirsten H. Engel's 'State and local climate change initiatives: what is motivating state and local governments to address a global problem and what does this say about federalism and environmental law?' (2006); Jouni Paavola's 'Climate change: the ultimate "tragedy of the commons"?' (2011); Marvin Soroos' The endangered atmosphere: preserving a global commons (1997); and Barton Thompson's 'Tragically difficult: the obstacles to governing the commons' (2000, pp. 241-278).
(v) Daniel Esty, for instance, in 'Toward optimal environmental governance', argues that '[f]alling back to national-scale intervention ... invites free riding, holdouts, and inefficient spending of limited resources--and thus structural regulatory failure. At least from a theoretical viewpoint, inherently global problems demand concerted worldwide action' (1999, p. 1555). This view will be considered in more detail later.
(vi) This analysis of the climate change problem in terms of future generations has been critiqued as being overly focused on prevailing narratives of developed countries, and ignoring that the effects of climate change are here now and are directly affecting the populations of developing countries. See, for instance, Philip Catney and Timothy Doyle, 'The welfare of now and the green (post) politics of the future' (2011, pp. 1-20). This issue will be addressed directly later in the paper.
(vii) According to Hugh Compston and Ian Bailey, typical state-level government policies include 'setting concrete short-term and aspirational long-term emissions targets, encouraging the development and diffusion of promising technologies, using market mechanisms such as taxes and emissions trading to spur innovation, and urging greater international cooperation on climate policy' (2008, pp. 1-2). Such policies generally exemplify a commodification of carbon dioxide. Erik Swyngedouw reminds us that 'On the European climate exchange ... trade in CO2 futures and options grew from zero in 2005 to 463 million tons in June 2009, with prices fluctuating from over 30 euro to less than 10 euro per ton over this time period' (2010, p. 220).
(viii) The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adopted at UNCED in 1992 and in force since 1994, has as ultimate objective to achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the climate system within a timeframe sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner. This objective is translated into mitigation policies, with mitigation techniques aiming at reducing the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a sustainable level, either by reducing emissions at source or by increasing sequestration of these gases by sinks or reservoirs.
(ix) As Michael Grubb puts it, there are two fundamental distributional issues to be resolved in order to achieve environmental justice: i) 'how to share out the responsibility for coping with the impacts of climate change, including issues of evaluating and potentially compensating for impacts on the most vulnerable', and ii) 'how to share out the responsibility for keeping the collective environmental pressures of 10 billion people including, and most specifically, C[O.sub.2] emissions within tolerable limits' (1995, p. 494).
(x) There is another level of complexity here which is that climate change is having a differentiated impact, disproportionately impacting on the developing world. For a clear delineation of this differentiated impact see Grubb (1995).
(xi) Such points were clearly stressed in Oxfam International's May 2009 Briefing Note for Copenhagen, 'EU leadership or losership? Time to beat the impasse on climate talks'.
(xii) George W. Bush made this point clearly in the second televised presidential debate of 2000: 'I'll tell you one thing I'm not going to do is I'm not going to let the United States carry the burden for cleaning up the world's air, like the Kyoto Treaty would have done. China and India were exempted from that treaty. I think we need to be more even-handed' (George W. Bush, quoted in Singer 2002, p. 30).
(xiii) Bradley C. Parks and J. Timmons Roberts outline four greenhouse gas reduction models utilised (to differing degrees) in international negotiation over climate change. Aside from the historical responsibility approach mentioned above, these include grandfathering which argues that 'countries should reduce their emissions incrementally from a baseline year (1990)'; the carbon intensity approach which 'calls for voluntary efficiency changes to drive emissions reductions'; and the per capita contraction and convergence approach. This latter approach would entail each person on the planet being 'given an equal right to the ability of the atmosphere to absorb carbon', in turn meaning that countries whose 'per capita consumption of fossil fuels is significantly lower than the world average' would have room to develop, while those countries with 'highly fossil-energy-intensive economies would face sharp requirements to cut their consumption of fuels' (Parks & Roberts 2008, p. 624).
(xiv) With a direct applicability to climate change justice, Catney and Doyle (2011) distinguish between the ways in which the environment/welfare nexus is experienced and understood. While developed countries (the global North in their framing), in their analysis of vies and policy, tend to understand environmental welfare in terms of the welfare of future generations (and that of non-human), developing countries (the global South) understand environmental welfare primarily in terms of the welfare needs of current generations. This difference drives the differing imperatives and policy focus of the developed versus the developing world with regards to climate change response and justice.
(xv) 'If climate change protection was an Olympic discipline, no country in the world would deserve to climb the winner's victory podium' (Germanwatch 2008, pp. 4-5). Also see Hugh Compton and Ian Bailey's (eds) Turning Down the Heat (2008).
(xvi) Kate Soper writes that there is a pressing need 'to rethink the nature and conditions of human flourishing in such a way as to shift the dynamic of human pleasures and modes of self-fulfilment away from its current consumerist model of satisfaction, and allow gratification through other, less polluting and resource-intensive modes of consumption' (2004, p. 58). There is a need, she continues, for an 'alternative hedonism' (59). Similar conclusions are drawn by Tim Jackson in Prosperity without growth: economics for a finite planet (2011).
(xvii) 'The concept of sustainable development was popularized by the 1987 Brundtland Report (formerly known as the World Commission on Environment and Development) and endorsed by political leaders from across the globe at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Since Rio, the concept of sustainable development became embedded in the language of policy makers and academics ... The dominant interpretation of sustainable development comes in the form of the theory of ecological modernization (EM). EM can be understood as an attempt to resolve the traditional tension in environmental politics between striving for economic growth and protecting the environment' (Catney & Doyle 2011, p. 4; cf. Grist 2008).
(xviii) This view not only assumes that economic growth is unlimited but (determinedly) forgets that this same economic growth (and the technological innovations it drives) has been dependent on the (over)use of environmental resources. As Peter Singer reminds us, however, the 'economy is a sub-system of the biosphere, and it is rapidly running up against the limits of the larger system' (1997, p. 51).
(xix) As Dennis Patrick O'Hara and Alan Abelsohn write, this is one of the excuses 'commonly proclaimed by Western governments in order to delay effective responses to climate change'. This is 'since future technologies will more effectively resolve the climate change issue, it is best to wait for technological fixes to arrive before acting' (2011, p. 27). Such a view also ties into the economic objective of being cost-effective at all costs.
(xx) Such a transformation has unsurprisingly been looked on with suspicion by both governments and their peoples. The latter seem, as Soper puts it, 'reluctant to be policed on their most ecologically damaging forms of consumption', whilst the former are 'loathe to jeopardise their re-election' (2004, p. 63). For a persuasive argument regarding the need for and possible processes of a green transformation of the economy, see Jackson (2011).
(xxi) 'In post-politics, the conflict of global ideological visions embodied in different parties which compete for power is replaced by the collaboration of enlightened technocrats (economists, public opinion specialists ...) and liberal multiculturalists; via the process of negotiation of interests, a compromise is reached in the guise of a more or less universal consensus. Post-politics thus emphasizes the need to leave old ideological visions behind and confront new issues, armed with the necessary expert knowledge and free deliberation that takes people's concrete needs and demands into account' (Zizek 1999, p. 198).
(xxii) This of course is a generalisation which is countered by multiple examples. For instance developed countries have seen the rise and development of Transition Towns and Transition Initiatives, best described as local, small-scale, community-led responses to the challenges of climate change. As described by TransitionNetwork.org, these responses aim to trail-blaze, to 'help show the way forward for governments, business and the rest of us'. For more information, see http://www.transitionnetwork.org/support/what-transition-initiative. Similarly the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, sponsored by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, has brought more than 500 cities worldwide to adopt a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target similar to that contained within the Kyoto Protocol, and individual regions are also developing their own climate change policies and plans independently of what is being agreed to and implemented at state level. In developing countries, climate change responses are being developed and implemented at state, regional and local levels. Key examples of these include, at state level, China's 12th Five Year Plan which identifies tackling climate change as a priority for China, and includes a commitment to gradually introduce market mechanisms to control energy consumption and carbon pollution. At regional and local levels there also exist multiple indigenous, women's and peasants' organisations working against climate change. These might fight for environmental justice generally or for the implementation of local climate change mitigation or adaptation measures.
(xxiii) Using data from the year 2000, Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent (2003) estimate that the 850 million consumers in developed countries have been joined by nearly 1.1 billion new consumers from developing countries. Clearly this number must be revised upwards to include the many millions of people who have become new consumers since that time.
(xxiv) Andrew Dobson also addresses this problem of the 'motivational space ... at cosmopolitanism's heart', proposing a 'thick' cosmopolitanism able to identify 'relationships of causal responsibility' able to 'trigger stronger senses of obligation [and action] than higher-level ethical appeals [typical of thin cosmopolitanism] can do' (2006, pp. 165, 182).
(xxv) Further problematising this situation is the fact that states can temporally and geographically displace the costs of meeting such transnational obligations. For instance, the economic 'polluter pays principle' has been written into the Kyoto Protocol in such a way that polluting countries are effectively able 'to "buy" their way out of taking action at home by paying for emission reduction schemes elsewhere, often in developing countries' (Elliott 2006, p. 354).
(xxvi) Compare these conditions with Held's eight principles of cosmopolitanism: '(1) equal worth and dignity; (2) active agency; (3) personal responsibility and accountability; (4) consent; (5) collective decision-making about public matters through voting procedures; (6) inclusiveness and solidarity; (7) avoidance of serious harm; and (8) sustainability' (2005, p. 12).
(xxvii) Of the Kyoto Protocol's flexible mechanisms, for example--its Joint Implementation (JI) projects, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and International Emissions (IE) Trading--only the CDM clearly has the capacity to be suitable for low income communities and individuals, also offering opportunities to women's groups. The difficulty is that 'the international process to register an emission reduction project as a CDM project is cumbersome and costly' (Lambrou & Piana 2005, p. 23).
(xxviii) The issue here is that liberal and deliberative theories of democracy take univocity as their normative principle. That is, while both of these models certainly recognise and respect diversity, they do so by clearly separating the public from the private sphere. For these models, the public sphere comprises the rationally agreed-upon --i.e. contracted--structures and good of the society/state as well as the rationally agreed-upon procedures for so reaching consensus, while the private sphere is set aside as the space in which individuals can legitimately pursue and express diversity, albeit only insofar it does not disrupt the functioning of the public sphere. As Chantal Mouffe puts it, the belief here is that 'by confining divisive issues to the sphere of the private, agreement on procedural rules should be enough to regulate the plurality of interests in society' (2005b, p. 111).
(xxix) This is not to say that the demos of radical democracy is not organised around exclusion. As Mouffe reminds us of any polis, 'There are always other possibilities that have been repressed'. Importantly, however, such possibilities for radical democracy can always be 'reactivated'. As she continues, 'The articulatory practices through which a certain order is established and the meaning of social institutions is fixed are "hegemonic practices". Every hegemonic order is susceptible of being challenged by counter-hegemonic practices, i.e. practices which will attempt to disarticulate the existing order so as to install another form of hegemony' (2005a, p. 18).
(xxx) As Jacques Derrida puts it, democracy must remain always to come, always an open question to itself. It marks as such an engagement or a promise which is neither utopian nor realisable but spectral, taking place, as Derrida says, in a 'here and now that I regularly try to dissociate from the present' (1996, p. 83; cf. 1994, p. 64).
(xxxi) Brooke Ackerly is here drawing on the useful distinction John Rawls outlines between ideal and non-ideal theory in A theory of justice (1999, [section] 16; cf. Rawls & Kelly 2001, pp. 64-65). Rawls himself is a proponent of an ideal theory of justice which 'assumes strict compliance and works out the principles that characterize a well-ordered society under favourable circumstances. It develops the conception of a perfectly just basic structure and the corresponding duties and obligations of persons under the fixed constraints of human life' (1999, p. 212).
(xxxii) Mouffe (1992) reminds us that subject positions and practices are always precariously and temporarily constructed. For the significance of this with regards to radical democracy also see Jane Mummery (2005) 'Rethinking the democratic project: Rorty, Mouffe, Derrida and democracy to come'.
(xxxiii) Lloyd and Little's third feature in their description of radical democracy is that 'civil society rather than the state is construed as the principal, even exclusive, site of democratic struggle' (2009, p. 3). Defined as 'a multiplicity of diverse groups and organisations, formal and informal, of people acting together for a variety of purposes' (Lummis 1996, pp. 30, 31; cf. Martin 2009, p. 93), civil society thus encompasses the performance, participatory action and contestation of radical democracy.
(xxxiv) Swyngedouw stresses this point when he notes that the 'proper political [i.e. democratic] dimension of egalibertarian universalisation ... cannot be substituted by a proliferation of identitarian, multiple and ultimately fragmented communities' (2009, p. 615). That is, radical democracy is not comprised simply of a plurality of activist groups; rather depending on their construction of a 'chain of equivalence among their demands', but a chain of equivalence that is informed by the principles of equality and liberty and which 'takes account of the different social relations and subject positions in which they are relevant: gender, class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on' (Mouffe 2005b, pp. 70, 71).
(xxxv) This challenge is also described by Noam Chomsky as integral to the work of the Occupy movement, a clear example of radical democracy in process. As he describes it 'the most exciting aspect of the Occupy movement is the construction of the associations, bonds, linkages and networks that are taking place all over' (2012, p. 45). These linkages do not need to be homogenised, as Chomsky stresses repeatedly, but they do need to enable further broader mobilisation and articulation.
(xxxvi) In his PhD dissertation Terry Eyssens talks of this activity as 'raw politics'. As he puts it, 'The imperative of "going raw" is that of the situation itself, whether it is the result of a desire to produce or do something or the perceived need to resist or prevent something from happening ... There is no coherent unity to a gathering, just an experience of an in-common doing' (2011, p. 229).
(xxxvii) This recognition of causal interconnectedness and responsibility is what Dobson has proposed as the requirement for turning an 'intellectual commitment' to cosmopolitan principles into a 'determination to act on them' (2006, p. 165). This requirement also marks for him the distinction between thick and thin cosmopolitanism. I would suggest that such recognition marks the radical democratising of cosmopolitan ideals.
(xxxviii) See Derrida's (1996; 1994) reminder that democracy is always to come.
Jane Mummery is a senior lecturer in philosophy in the School of Education and Arts at the University of Ballarat in Australia. She is currently involved in research in radical democracy, the democratic possibilities of new media, and post-structuralist ethics and feminism. She has published work on Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, and Chantal Mouffe. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Date:||Dec 1, 2012|
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