Green is not the new red 1

July 17, 2008

A nice juxtaposition: a league table showing incremental progress on environmental improvements in UK universities and a review of a book demanding "collective revolutionary action on the scale of Robespierre or the Bolsheviks" to head off environmental ruin ("Green shoots" and Books, 3 July).

Slavoj Žižek doesn't want you to read his book In Defense of Lost Causes if you don't already agree with him, and he thinks Heidegger and Foucault toadying to brutal revolutionaries should be your intellectual exemplars. And he apparently supplies a "much-needed politicised edge" to ecocriticism, even though, from Raymond Williams to the present explosion of research, UK ecocritics have always seen themselves as political: liberal, social democratic or anarchist, but seldom revolutionary socialist, for reasons that the environmental history of the "actually existing socialist" USSR should make abundantly clear. Nothing but deconstructive logic - which creates the dualities it delights in subverting - demands a choice between an ecological Robespierre and the greenwashing of Rupert Murdoch as a "leading environmentalist". Žižek's neo-Stalinism is unlikely to take off in the green movement, even if it thrills some academics.

Greg Garrard, Senior teaching fellow, Bath Spa University, chair, Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (UK).

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