In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democracies

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Handbooks
  • Journals

Political Science Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democracies
Andreas Duit
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0141


Before the mid-1960s, the notion of environmental problems, and hence environmental politics and policy, were virtually nonexistent in public and scholarly debates. This changed abruptly when environmental problems were “discovered” during the second half of the 1960s, and by the beginning of the 1970s most industrialized democracies had issued a first round of policy responses, set up environmental administrations, and started to debate environmental issues in political assemblies and in civic society. In political science, the study of society’s efforts to address environmental problems has run in parallel with the expansion of environmental policymaking and the growing saliency of the environmental issue. A number of key themes have been present in the literature throughout almost the entire period. Among these the tripartite relationship between liberal democracy, economic growth, and environmental degradation has spurred the most controversy. This debate has revolved around the issue of whether environmental problems can be solved within the existing system of market economy and representational liberal democracy, or if the solution inevitably must entail a fundamental reorganization of core decision-making and economic institutions in contemporary society. Some argue that more advanced market economies tend to exhibit signs of ecological modernization in the form of stricter environmental regulation, new cleaner and more efficient production processes, and citizenries with more pro-environmental values. Opponents of this view are in turn arguing that the reduction in environmental pressures and the emergence of new cleaner technologies is really just a displacement of environmental harms to other forms of environmental damage and to other areas of the planet and that the very notion of green growth is just a myth promulgated by capitalist structures. Another long-standing debate concerns the issue of which governance arrangements are best suited for addressing environmental problems. In this debate, the role of stakeholder and citizen participation, deliberative democracy, and other types of participatory and consensus-building policy arrangements have been at the forefront of the research agenda. The central notion here is that environmental policy, if it is to be able to address and change social practices causing environmental harm, must strive to be inclusive, consensus-generating, deliberative, and participatory to overcome collective action problems in which environmental problems are generated. A third research topic concerns how the environmental issue has given rise to new values, attitudes, and behaviors among citizens, new social movements, and new political cleavages and parties. Some scholars argue that the environmental issue represents a new type of political value base that challenges the supremacy of the old left-right dimension of political value orientations among citizens and, by extension, party systems and the structure of civil society.

General Overviews and Handbooks

Recent years have witnessed the publication of a number of rather informative and comprehensive edited volumes and handbooks covering many aspects of environmental politics in industrialized societies. Dauvergne 2012, an edited handbook, is fairly recent and offers a good description of the state-of the-art of the field through the lenses of original articles. Another slightly earlier collection of classic texts can be found in Dryzek and Schlosberg 2005. Dryzek 2005 also offers a classification of major strands in environmental politics debates, whereas Steinberg and VanDeveer 2012 adds a comparative perspective. The edited volume Stephens, et al. 2006 focuses on theoretical issues in environmental politics, and the textbook Connelly and Smith 2003 provides a good introduction to most issues in environmental politics research. Somewhere between a textbook and a research monograph, Clapp and Dauvergne 2011 offers an insightful summary of contemporary debates and issues in environmental politics.

  • Clapp, Jennifer, and Peter Dauvergne. Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment. 2d ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011.

    Clapp and Dauvergne apply a political economy perspective to derive four different perspectives on global environmental politics. The authors use these perspectives to highlight how different ways of thinking about the environmental dilemma structure the environmental debate.

  • Connelly, James, and Graham Smith. Politics and the Environment. From Theory to Practice. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2003.

    Although a textbook primarily intended for undergraduate students, Connelly and Smith’s book offers a comprehensive overview of the main issues, theories, and concepts in environmental politics. It is very useful as an introduction to the field of environmental studies, but it also doubles as a reference work.

  • Dauvergne, Peter, ed. Handbook of Global Environmental Politics. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2012.

    This recent handbook of global environmental politics both offer comprehensive introductions to a wide range of topics in the area of global environmental politics. Some of the articles are of more relevance for the developing world and the international area, but several chapters address environmental politics in industrialized countries.

  • Dryzek, John S. The Politics of the Earth. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    John Dryzek analyzes discourses around environmental problems. He finds four dominating approaches (survivalism, environmental problem solving, sustainability, and green radicalism). The book works excellently as a first-time introduction to the environmental debate but is also of great value for orienting and situating other scholarly work in a larger picture.

  • Dryzek, John S., and David Schlosberg, eds. Debating the Earth. The Environmental Politics Reader. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    This volume consists of a selection of classical and central texts from the scholarly debate on environmental issues. Articles are organized into topical sections with an introductory text for each section written by the editors.

  • Steinberg, Paul F., and Stacy D. VanDeveer. “Comparative Environmental Politics in a Global World.” In Comparative Environmental Politics. Theory, Practice and Prospects. Edited by P. F. Steinberg and S. D. VanDeveer, 3–29. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2012.

    This volume consists of a collection of state-of-the-art essays from prominent scholars of environmental politics. The majority of the essays concern various aspects of environmental politics in industrialized countries, and the comparative perspective of all chapters makes it a valuable source text with relevance spanning many topics and geographical contexts.

  • Stephens, Piers H. G., with John Barry, and Andrew Dobson, eds. Contemporary Environmental Politics. From Margins to Mainstream. New York: Routledge, 2006.

    This is a collection of consisting predominantly of theoretical pieces on various issues in the contemporary debate. Some chapters do take an empirical route, and there are also a couple of more policy-oriented chapters.

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