Right-Wing Populism, Eco-Populism, and the Future of Environmentalism


My paper analyzes the populist rupture in what is generally understood as “normal politics” and the implications of this rupture for ecological theory and environmental policy. I draw on John Judis’ book "The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics" and other works to define populism generally as well as the difference between left-wing and right-wing forms of populism. Using Judis’ analysis as a starting point my paper traces the right-wing populist approach to environmentalism that assumed prominence in the Reagan administration to the view of environmentalism that prevails in the Trump administration. I then draw on Andrew Szasz’s book "Ecopopulism: Toxic Waste and the Movement for Environmental Justice" and other works to explore ways to transform ecological theory, strategy and messaging to enact environmental policies that enjoy broader and more active public support and are, therefore, more resilient in the face of right-wing populist attacks. Classical republican themes of independence and self-reliance found in populism alongside themes of interdependence and cooperation to achieve collective ends are a focal point of this paper. Drawing on Herbert Reid and Betsy Taylor’s "Recovering the Commons: Democracy, Place, and Global Justice", ecopopulism is defined as a discourse that not only divides the political landscape between elites and ordinary people with regard to disparities in wealth and power, but that also provides a vision of community that has the potential to unite and empower ordinary people in the common purpose of caring for each other, the earth, and future generations.

Author Information
James Stone, Mt. San Antonio College, United States

Paper Information
Conference: IICSEEHawaii2019
Stream: Economic and Social Inequality

This paper is part of the IICSEEHawaii2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon