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Summary of Ecological Revolution (2009) Whitaker, Mark D. mwhitake@ssc.wisc.


This research won an award from the American Sociological Association in conjunction with the U.S. National Science Foundation in 2010. This research began to be published in book form in 2009.

Whitaker, Mark D. 2009. Ecological Revolution: The Political Origins of Environmental Degradation and the Environmental Origins of Axial Religions; China, Japan, Europe. Cologne, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing, AG. (April 2009; ISBN: 978-3-83830022-1; 629 pages) Abstract: Most argue environmental movements are a novel feature of world politics. I argue that they are a durable feature of a degradative political economy. Past or present, environmental politics and scientific movements became expressed in religious change movements as oppositions to state environmental degradation using discourses available. Ecological Revolution describes characteristics why our historical states collapse and because of these characteristics are opposed predictably by religio-scientific-ecological movements. As a result, origins of our large scale humanocentric axial religions' and periods of scientific advance in human history are connected to anti-systemic environmental movements. Many major religious movements of the past were environmentalist by being health, ecological, and economic movements, rolled into one. Since ecological revolutions are endemic to a degradationbased political economy, they continue today. China, Japan, and Europe are analyzed over 2,500 years showing how religio-ecological and scientific movements get paired against chosen forms of state-led environmental degradation in a predictable fashion. The book describes solutions to this durable problematic as well. It should be useful to all people seeking solutions to environmental problems.

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Summary of Ecological Revolution (2009) Whitaker, Mark D.

Longer abstract (1,675 words): Though most claim environmental degradation or environmental social movements are only modern phenomena, this is the first comparative historical treatment of long-term patterns of environmental degradation and environmental social movements. Respectively, these two factors are involved in a long-term, repeating, sociological process around an unrepresentative state formations social and environmental penetration versus its social opposition. The process of environmental degradation is argued to be caused by unrepresentative state elite organizational changes in environmental relations for their own short-term political economic benefits of jurisdiction and extraction though with bad long-term consequences. This political organizational change facilitates a multitude of environmentally contextualized social movements past or present. The scale of this relational phenomenon gets bigger over time. One part of the argument is environmental social movement politics past or present became expressed in major religious change movements, as oppositions to state environmental degradation using discourses available. Another part of the argument is that these movements are connected equally with periods of human history where empirical scientific advance occurs, as linked to it. As a result, origins of periods of widening empirical research connect to the same periods of the inventions of our large scale humanocentric axial religions. Both in turn are connected in origin to anti-systemic environmental movements. The scientific element here is that many major religious movements of the past (or present) were environmentalist by being materialist instead of merely ideological in their concern: they were anti-systemic ideological movements of greater material concern for personal health (in medical movements of debate and research), for local ecological health, and local economic concern, rolled into one. Together these material and ideological change themes increasingly delegitimated participation within larger institutions that increasingly were seen as bringing more risk into their lives. Since ecological revolutions are an endemic part of an unrepresentative, degradation-based political economy of expansion, they continue today. China, Japan, and Europe are analyzed over 2,500 years showing how state-led environmental degradation gets paired with religio-ecological and scientific movements in a predictable fashion. The book describes solutions to this durable and repeating organizational problematic as well. It should be useful to all people seeking: solutions to environmental problems; understanding the origins of the axial religions that are still with us as environmentally influenced, as well as exploring the political economic and environmental conditions of human life as an important contextualizing rationale why and when certain scientific advances took place in particular regions of the world. To elaborate the model, it argues from a comparative historical view that common political organizational factors are to blame for environmental degradation. Ecological Revolution describes common political design characteristics as the rationale why our historical states facilitated environmental degradation that contributed to their collapse contributing politically, economically, and culturally. Because of degradative state

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Summary of Ecological Revolution (2009) Whitaker, Mark D.

political pressures, they become opposed predictably by religio-ecological and scientific movements. Ecological Revolution describes a common cross-cultural and historical pattern that repeatedly has emerged in which two powerful competing groups, in their efforts to obtain the support of (or derive benefit from) a weaker group, engage in activities that degrade their common environment. One of the two groups includes the despatialized networks of territorial state-based elites with their formal institutional, material disbursement, and ideological sponsorship mechanisms they utilize to consolidate power across larger territories. First, this strategy of elite-sponsored state formation via centralized consumptive and ideological ambivalence has a material consequence. It leads to consolidation of economic relations and economic shakeout of the territory over time, resulting in mounting problems in health, ecological soundness, and economic durability. Second, this strategy of elite facilitated environmental degradation has an ideological and cultural consequence. The social risks of its political economic consolidation slowly delegitimates any originating ideological sponsorship of state elites attempts to construct their states as legitimated larger institutions. Mounting delegitimation due to the three material problems above creates desires in the other group to break away from the larger territorial state clientelism, materially and ideologically. This is a local self-interest merging with pro-environmental sentiment interlinked, i.e., in the name of their regional ecological self-interest that is increasingly undermined by unrepresentative state elite policies. The other group includes these multiple regional areas of more geographically embedded peasants/citizens. This group responds in a variety of ecological revolutionary ways to political economic suffering from state-based environmental degradation. This leads to a more anti-systemic, localized organizational culture legitimating a variety of more autonomy-inclined and/or depoliticized movements along with movements of what can be called hermetic science movementswith the novel interest in more independent empirical and material explorations of their predicament and the novel externalities in their lives, particularly in exploring or in suggesting alternative social organizational and medical issues. Thus the context of ecological revolution additionally explores why certain periods of scientific advancement have been pronounced within such eras of massive religious change as well: both are autonomous movements seeking their way in a novel plurality of more independent manners of identity. They are simultaneously oppositional material and ideological support frameworks for the latter group against degradation-encouraging, state based elites. The term ecological revolution is stressed because the material and ecological relations in world historys oppositional social movements have been overlooked. These oppositional ideological movements have three common environmentally linked factors. They are anti-systemic health practices, local ecological protection movements against state/elite jurisdiction and extraction, and involve more ecologically rationalized economic-technological institutions within a religious mobilization. Such major religious social movements in world history take place in contexts of massive environmental degradation, political economic consolidation, and immiserationand social reorganization attempts at escaping this context. As a consequence, so-called ideological/religious movements have in many cases had material social institutional priorities and/or material critique priorities intertwined with scientific movements.

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Summary of Ecological Revolution (2009) Whitaker, Mark D.

Explicitly, the history of scientific advance has been involved intellectually in such periods of religious and material oppositional history instead of being different or distinct from it. Mediating variables to this peasant/citizen response would be the case-specific issues of hinterland/frontiers, particularities of such geographies, historical event outcomes, ongoing state/movement interactions, depth of penetration of state elites into a wider society, and arguably the availability or ingenuity of alternative discourses and conceptions of revolt. Global religious movements and ideological/cultural change are often analyzed in isolation from material, political economic, and scientific issues except in histories of science and medicine where such interactions are more established and well known. Most research has been carried out in isolation from the ecological contexts of both these changes. Additionally, analysis of state formation has often been carried out without regard to ecological contexts. Therefore, both these anti-systemic and systemic forces in world history rarely are analyzed as linked with a shared changing environmental relationship in a long-term process. Ecological Revolution contributes to bringing the environment back in as an overlooked theme in both their origins and in conceiving of their ongoing environmentally mediated, relational interaction. First, the book tries to show an interactive process of how a plurality of religious social movements gets paired against a common state-facilitated environmental degradation in a predictable fashion, and how future state formation elites have difficulty in constructing themselves as legitimate in the wake of such culturally decentralizing ecological revolutions. Second, it helps explain how we got our humanocentric religious discourses worldwide from a common mechanism of degradative state formation contributing to undermining and to delegitimating regional, ecologically sensitive religious identities toward more abstract humanocentric ones (without these humanocentric ones in practice being divorced from environmentally contextualized concerns or origins). One the one hand, environmental degradation processes of such primary state formation consolidations in different areas of the world have been very destructive of humanenvironmental connectivity and identity relationships in the past. On the other hand, we are the children of environmental degradation, as it seems the parent of the contexts that have created any invented, wider humanocentric principles and shared ethical heritages of the axial religions and of sharable scientific advances as well. Third, as the history of science and medicine shows, such subaltern scientific movements are highly interactive with the subaltern religious mobilizations of their eras. Fourth, as history proceeds, the same mechanism of ongoing territorial state expansion soon co-opts its novel oppositional (and scientific) discourses and turns them into a wider state formation legitimation appeal or sponsored versions of them. This explains culturally why in the world historical record there are ever-larger scales of territorial states constructed over time, due to the larger abstract cultural discourses created in the previous cycle of environmental degradation and ecological revolution-even if each state formation tends to fail in similar manners in the future due to similar self-degradative, self-delegitimating processes of ecological revolution once more, that remain unsolved. In an effort to encourage a less Eurocentric sociology and world history, the book examines cases of this environmentally-modulated systemic and anti-systemic interaction

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Summary of Ecological Revolution (2009) Whitaker, Mark D.

in Japan, China, and Europe over the past 2,500 years and into the present. Since this book argues that these ecological revolutions are an endemic part of a degradation-based political economy, it has a prediction. Instead of only happening only once, this ecological revolutionary process continues into the present. Different 'eras' (I challenge the whole idea of different political economic eras) show the same dynamic, past or present, as the ever-expanding scales of this same process of interaction. It is not argued that all forms of such identity, scientific, ethical, and medical/scientific change are tied to environmental degradation. It is only argued that an overlooked point about truly widespread religious and ideological changes in world history (and scientific advances) has been their connection to mobilizing a local material politics against degraded state political economies, and the other overlooked point about how unrepresentative elite forms of political economic organization are repeatedly and predictably to blame for environmental degradation. Unrepresentative elite choices typically have been self-destructive of their own environment, their legitimated leadership, and their states durability. I fail to argue that this environmental degradation is functionally required to occur however, since strategies and choices of political organizational (cultural and material) variables are the cause. Therefore, environmental degradation may be solved by different choices of strategies equally, described in my other book Toward a Bioregional State.

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