Radical, integral, social ecology … Understand the words of the candidates of the primary ecologist

Fabrice Flipo, professor of social and political philosophy, epistemology and history of science and technology at the Institut Mines-Télécom Business School, analyzes the words used by Yannick Jadot and Sandrine Rousseau, the two candidates for the ecological primary whose second round is ends Tuesday.

Social ecology, degrowth, radical ecology or environmental radicalism: from Yannick Jadot to Sandrine Rousseau, Éric Piolle or Delphine Batho, these terms have been used at will by candidates for the environmentalist primary. However, they need to be explained so that they can be understood by the uninitiated. A first clarification is in order. Words, in the political arena, are generally used in a performative way, depending on the mobilizing effect they can have on the target audiences, and in particular on opinion leaders. These are basic elements of political communication, which are by no means specific to the Greens. When the right-wing candidates present themselves as “free” (Valérie Pécresse) or “conservatives” (François Fillon), it is not to make the history of ideas, but in order to differentiate themselves from their rivals and to mobilize in different audiences.

The exercise is not easy: the researcher Manuel Cervera-Marzal thus suggests that the radical left must today manage to assemble the France of neighborhoods and immigration, progressive urbanites, a part of peripheral France embodied by the yellow Jackets and the wages of the public sector, which obviously seems more difficult to gather the working class, as was his goal in 1960.

A history of long-term ideas

We observe, however, that the words used in the programs of environmental candidates often cover a long history of political ideas. For example, “Social Ecology” is generally linked to the ecomunicipalism of the American Murray Bookchin (1921-2006), who is considered to be the founder of this current. Coming from a family that participated in the Russian Revolution of 1905 and forced to flee due to repression, this intellectual first frequented Trotskyist circles. Then he moved towards ecologism during the years 1950-1960, without ever losing sight of the self-management perspective.

By “ecologism”, we mean a coherent body of ideas, references and actions, in particular militant, constituting a whole which is different from other political ideologies (socialism, liberalism, conservatism, etc.)

In the 1980s, Murray theorized a model of society based on direct democracy implemented at the level of municipalities, which would be organized in a federation. These theses were later taken up by the theorist of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), within a movement which abandoned the Marxist-Leninist orientation for an approach based on living together, giving a preponderant place to joint learning and to women.

When we look at the program of candidates, none can claim social ecology in the sense of Murray Bookchin. But Sandrine Rousseau is the candidate who comes closest to it, with many measures of local or direct democracy (drawing lots), while Yannick Jadot is the one who is furthest from it, with a program oriented towards the government action (investment, etc.) rather than participation.

“Environmental radicality”

Sandrine Rousseau is not left with action: “environmental radicalism” is one of the pillars of her program. But it is based on forces that are less consensual and less in the majority than those on which Yannick Jadot relies: ecocide, rights of nature, 4-day week, income from existence, etc. The economic aspect itself (which industries, which jobs, which position of France in globalization, etc.) is not very present, or in any case not very detailed. The demands around equality are on the other hand very supported.

Yannick Jadot, for his part, positions himself in the measure, more than in the rupture: he proposes to support the actors who risk losing in the change with a program that is too radical, and in doing so, is opposed to a change that is too brutal, too radical. therefore, for example a progressive turning point in agriculture.

Sandrine Rousseau is in a more conflictual position, of confrontation bearing the idea of ​​force to bend. It will probably attract to it some of the social movements and their support, while those who think that such a balance of power is unlikely to win will follow Yannick Jadot, with the risk of a policy of small steps, because more “realistic”, in the sense of a more pronounced acceptance of the established order.

A spiritual dimension

“Integral ecology” claimed by Delphine Batho refers to a spiritual dimension and in this case Christian, although it is not often presented in this way by the candidate. This is what explains his companionship with the philosopher Dominique Bourg, also a Christian. One of the sources of inspiration is therefore  Laudato Si  by Pope Francis. However, it claims to be “100% secular”, and this is consistent with the ecological tradition.

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