Metamodernism, More Sustainable than Ecologism

For all its different forms, Green ideology seeks to create sustainability of some kind. Even if some proponents of more radical forms of ecologism like to point out that the aim can hardly be to “sustain” a destructive and eco­cidal civilization, that they prefer “resilience” or even “regeneration”, this still means that ecologists want this new imagined and preferable state of affairs to be… well, sustainable. No matter how you look at it, sustain­abi­lity is the dem­and, the goal, of ecologism. Resilience and regeneration both include sus­tain­ability within them.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications.

It is thus hardly a stretch to say that any kind of politics which does not maximize sustainability (again: of the present society or any imagined fut­ure one) is not the optimal Green politics, not in alignment with ecol­o­gism. Naturally, some forms of ecologism are of a reconciliatory bent (seek­ing to “reconcile” humanity with the environment), some are anth­ro­po­centric in their environmentalism, some are spiritual and focus upon att­ain­ing unity with “deep ecology”, some are unforgiving against the excesses of hum­anity while focusing on solidarity with ecosystems and the bio­sphere, some are transformational (seeking to transform the ecosys­tems of the world with human intelligence), some are futuristic and others primi­tiv­istic. You have pragmatists and hardliners, in the emble­matic exa­mple of Green par­ties, the German die Grüne, these are called the Fundis (fundamentalist environmentalists) and Realos (realist green politicians).

And then there are all the mixes with other ideologies and struggles: eco­socialism, green liberalism, techno-environmentalism, eco­fasc­ism, hu­man ecology of indige­nous minority rights, multiculturalism, and so on.

What they all share is a focus on sustainability in some form or other. Even if ecologist thinkers like Arne Næss, Murray Bookchin, Gary Snyder, Theo­d­ore Roszak and today’s Tim Morton and Roger Scruton all have diff­erent takes on this issue, it is not a stretch to say they are some­how committed to sus­tainability—although the word itself only became com­monplace after 1987 with the Brundt­land Report.[i]

What, then, can be learned from political metamodernism in terms of sustainability? A thing or two.

You cannot have a sustainable societal system (economy-layered-in-bio­sphere) without a corresponding and matching sustainability in all fields of development: system, culture, psychology and behavior (as dis­cussed here). In other words, you can’t have ecological sustaina­bility with­out social and economic sustainability. And how do you get there?

You need to get people to a point in their lives where they genuinely understand and care about issues larger than themselves. That’s Existen­tial Politics. You need to make sure people have good enough social rela­tions to not get stuck in prisoners’ dilemmas that hold back our devel­op­ment and potential to care and not get stuck in materialistic status gam­es. That’s Gemeinschaft Politics. You need to see to it that the systems of governance can nimbly and effectively redesign themselves so as to deal with new environmental challenges when they become known, in a way that gains support and legitimacy. That’s Democrati­zation Politics. You need to make certain that all of society is aligned with what is empirically shown to create circular economies and cradle-to-cradle processes, and you need to make sure that you spot and correctly understand environ­mental threats such as climate change and that the public is well informed and has the ability to respond reasonably. That’s Empirical Politics. And you need to make certain that ideas about ecology, sustainability and hu­manity’s place in a larger context of nature per­meate people’s conscious­ness and all of our ideas about life. That’s Politics of Theory. And un­less you’re an eco­fascist and just don’t care about the freedom of people, you need to make sure that all of these processes can play out without oppress­ing people, and that’s Emancipation Politics.

So tell me again how you were going to create a sustainable society with­out political metamodernism. Can you see how unrealistic any eco­logist ideology would be without these processes?

Any version of ecologism requires political metamodernism to be truly sust­ainable. Any environmentalism not underpinned by the Nordic ideo­logy is simply less sustainable, less resilient, less regenerative. That’s all, folks: the Nordic ideology is greener than Green.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. Named so after the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundt­land who led the UN’s work on understanding and defining sustainability.