In an important intervention in the literature on environmental political economy,
John Dryzek (1996) explains how debate over the possibility of constructing
an ecosustainable future for human society has largely swirled around two
perspectives on human nature. On the one side is Homo economicus, the instrumental,
"rational" actor of neoclassical economics. And, on the other side, there
is Homo ecologicus, the new, ascetic ecological subject of "Green" social theory.
For Dryzek, it is abundantly clear that little space exists in instrumental rationality
for the ecosensitivity required by a future environmentally responsible
social order. On the other hand, he is concerned with the possible authoritarian
political outcome of inculcating the new ecological subjectivity and the extent
of the social regression entailed in certain Green visions of self-sufficient microcommunities.
What troubles him to an even greater extent is the very endeavor
of both sides to reduce the issue of environmental political economy to "psychology"
in the first place. As Dryzek (1996: 30) posits, the need for social science
derives precisely from the fact "that society, and social structure, are not
reducible to psychology." Thus he proposes a twofold solution for thinking
anew about the political economy of environmental sustainability. First, Dryzek
(1996: 38) argues for "an ecological political economy [that] would concern
itself with the structure, organization and operation of political-economic systems
as they confront ecological problems." Second, Dryzek (1996: 28) argues
for "human intersubjectivity and communication" as the nexus through which
the processes of institution-building for the future eco-sustainable order are to
be articulated. However, while I am in agreement with the above characterization
of social science and the task of political economy, and accept that social
"communication" broadly conceived has an important role to play in remaking
our social communities, Dryzek's article never considers a set of deeper, more
pressing questions that spring from his insights.