Green Culture, Cultures and Philosophy


ISBN 9781907543661

Edited by Nelly Eysholdt(Germany) and Miriam Kennet


Green Culture, Cultures and Philosophy

ISBN 9781907543661

Edited by Nelly Eysholdt(Germany) and Miriam Kennet


What is Culture? A definitive definition of the term seems to be a difficult endeavour. Throughout history, the word has been used in such a broad way that today, everyone seems to have a sense of what it could be, but nobody can quite put their finger on it.


The Oxford Dictionary tells us that the word comes from Latin cultura, which means growing, cultivation [1], hinting towards its origins in agriculture.

It also introduces a fundamental distinction between what has been created by nature and what is made by humans, which is an idea all definitions of the word share. [2]

A broad understanding of culture thus includes “the typical life and labor forms, mindsets and behaviours, moral concepts and intellectual manifestations of life of a community.” [3]

If we want to look at culture as it is developing in the 21st century, this broad definition should suffice since we want to explore what defines the human condition in this century. This condition can be best illustrated by contrasting it with the preceding era of modernity.The modernity project, as Habermas has phrased it [4], was characterised by the optimistic search and drive for progress and definite truth and by the hope for a radical change of the conditions of human existence. The hope lay in directing the progress of time towards a utopian idea of society.

[5] However, the devastating global events in the middle of the 20th century have marked an end of the grand narratives.

In what Lyotard has called The Postmodern Condition [6], a deep sense of contingency, uncertainty, relativism and lack of uniformity has creeped into all spheres of human existence. Ideologies, truth claims, art movements – all seem to drown in a sea of pluralism, taking their validity and authority down with them. Competing narratives, large small,inclusive, diverse or protectionist or xenophobic are all playing out in the politics of today. Some argue that there is a clash of different or opposing cultures, for example secularism or religiousity, or socialism or capitalist world views or statist or non interventionist ways of running governments.Familiar cultures or in coming cultures The discourse about human interactions with nature, of which the discourse about green movements, sustainability and environmentalism is a part, is characterised by postmodern pluralism as well.The many different interpretations and views within this discourse, of which some are explored in this book, testify to that. In this disorientation, nobody can be forced to take sides.

As Foucault has pointed out, culture can also be about creating boundaries by excluding all which does not belong to one’s own culture, which he shows by pointing out the contingency of rationales to exclude alleged mad people from society throughout history. [7] In this sense, culture is understood as a rather negative concept of exclusion. In a postmodern society, thus, each one of us should be able to decide on their own what is best. This can be understood as a great achievement of postmodernity, but also a serious threat. In this era of uncertainty and contingency, how can we find a common purpose again?The notion that culture is what is made by humans in contrast to what is created by nature also means that throughout history, humans were always defining and redefining their relationship with nature.Collecting different understandings of this relationship throughout history and throughout the world is an important cornerstone to get an overview of what is floating around in the pool of ideas, philosophies and cultures. This book aims to give such an overview.

It will present green cultural debates and concepts (Part 2).

It will introduce diverse philosophies and cultures around the world (Part 3).

It will explore explore green cultures of economics, resistance and realism (Part 4).

It will describe today’s culture of wealth, growth and accumulation (Part 5) and contrast it with a critique of this culture and an introduction to the philosophy of sustainability (Part 5). The book is by no means complete, however, it should be seen as the start of a larger project answering the question raised above.

It will open the discussion by showing the sociopsychological aspect of cultural change (Part 6)  Presenting some of the cultural challenges we face in the 21st century (Part 7).

While collecting ideas about the book and its aims, more questions than answers came to mind.For example, where for a long time humans have seen themselves as the king of the animal kingdom, recent scientific discoveries have shown that in some aspects, other animals are much more intelligent than humans. [8] Chimpanzees for instance have a much better short term memory and can use it to win against humans in computer games. What is even more striking, however, is that one of the fundamental distinctions between humans and animals seems to lose its validity: It is assumed that many animals have a reflective sense of self, a consciousness.

Some researchers are even suggesting that plants might indeed have a sense of pain. [9] Whether this is true or not, these discoveries and the discourse surrounding them can certainly be related to the greater discourse about our relationship with nature which we are facing in the 21st century. Questions arising from this discourse include: * What defines humans in relation to other living beings and to ecosystems? * Is the concept of culture dissolving by a blurring of the lines between humans and other living beings?* Will there be a concept which goes beyond culture and takes its place?In addition to the question of how we can find a common purpose again: * Is a new great narrative possible and even desirable? * How do we balance the virtues and dangers of cultural pluralism? * How do we deal with arrogance and the risk of imposing dogmas?

We aim to stimulate a discussion: This book takes writing from all around the world and as such is a refreshing addition to the culture literature.