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On the Birth of Global Green Consciousness

What would the founding fathers of sociology (Marx, Weber, Durkheim) have made of the current global growth of Green consciousness?

Although we can never know for sure, Marx might have said that the forces of production had reached a point where their further growth and their continued domination of nature required either a revolution in the relations of production or at the very least a partial revolution in those same forces of production.

Arguably the current Green movement pleads for both: the further development of green technology and the reorganization of the distribution and production of goods/services/wages.

Following Marx, we could say that it is no coincidence that as capitalism reached over-saturated global dimensions (especially after the fall of Totalitarian Socialism), a global awareness of the contradictions of that system (most acutely in the form of climate change and income inequality) grew in importance. The ideology and practice of commodification reaches its Golgotha in climate catastrophe.

In a sense, today’s Green movement can be seen, if not necessarily as a class based movement, than as the formation of a significant global grouping sharing a collective consciousness concerning their aims and origins. They have become a social group for itself (für sich) and thus are more than ready to enact social change and even perhaps engage in revolutionary praxis.

Interestingly, the Green’s global formation is not, as Marx would have expected, a result of their position in the global hierarchy of production but, as Max Weber would have said, have their origins in ideas and beliefs rather then the relation between things. Of course, material relationships are crucial but they serve as an explanatory means to an idealistically motivated end: the value millions of people put on the achievement of a thriving humanity linked to a balanced ecosystem. It is a set of diverse ecological, moral, and political beliefs which are the motor for Green collective action and not necessarily social or economic position although, as always, that also plays a role.

Durkheim, too, would probably not have been surprised at the growing cohesion of global Green consciousness and might have described it as a specific example of what he termed “dynamic density”. Here, Durkheim might have pointed out that not only has global population reached historic levels (an example of the growth of absolute volume) but that the new social media technologies have allowed for an unprecedented increase in the “density” of social interactions thus making new forms of social cooperation, especially on a global scale, more likely.

Historically, Marx’s transnational revolutionary worker class failed to materialize. Yet, the current stage of both the forces and relations of production have given rise to a Green consciousness that has idealistically critiqued the current global system and is ready to join hands across class and nation. Thus, if there is to be a 21st century ” revolutionary multitude” in the sense of Negri’s and Hardt’s famous culminating aspiration then that multitude will be Green, Globally connected, and Growing in both praxis and power.