Inderscience Publishers

From the liberal to the green democratic state: upholding autonomy and sustainability

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This article explores the environmental stewardship capabilities of the liberal democratic state by critically examining the 'fit' between liberalism, capitalism and different discourses of economy-environment integration. The discourses that are more compatible with liberalism and capitalism are shown to be less likely to deliver sustainability. This problem is traced to the way liberals understand sustainability as a constraint on autonomy, rather than a condition of autonomy. The article develops an ideal typology of three environmental states the ecoliberal state, the environmental welfare state and the green democratic state which embodies the three main discourses of sustainability in the post-Brundtland era: simple ecological modernisation, sustainable development and 'reflexive ecological modernisation'. The green democratic state is defended as more capable than the ecoliberal state or the environmental welfare state of promoting sustainability, which also maximises autonomy for all, now and in the future.

Keywords: limits to growth, neo-Marxist theories of the state, sustainable development, reflexive modernisation, ecological modernisation, liberalism, ecological democracy, green democratic state, autonomy, sustainability, environmental stewardship, capitalism, economy-environment integration

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