George Walford: Greens Under Beds

In Russia after 1917 the communist ideology seemed to be taking over from all the others; it frightened the establishment even in the USA. We now see the dwarf behind the giant’s mask; in Russia as elsewhere communists have remained a small minority. As each new ideology first appears on the world scene, and as each established ideology makes its entry among a population unfamiliar with it, it encounters a ‘pool’ of potential supporters ready to adopt it and grows rapidly until this has been absorbed; then it stops, settling into its place in the pyramid. After this it may fluctuate, but pressure from the other ideologies restrains these irregularities. The reformist ideology, and still more the revolutionary and repudiative ones, locate themselves in the upper part of the pyramid, among the small numbers.

This process gets repeated with each new issue offering scope for public ideological activity. It seemed for a time as if the conservationist movement was on its way to unseating old ways of thinking and acting. Now it is settling into place. It becomes daily more clear that the greens are following the same pattern of behaviour as the more directly political reliorists, reformers and revolutionaries, attitudes towards the ecology coming to show the normal ideological distribution. The eidodynamic / eidostatic divide appears as the distinction between ‘social ecologists,’ with proposals requiring radical social transformation, and ‘realists’, preferring more limited and short-term but more readily attainable objectives. As in political life generally, the more radical the changes demanded, the smaller the support received. (The advanced greens also emulate their more orthodox political colleagues in manifesting a tendency to do the splits: ‘Green parties in Europe have already torn themselves to shreds over questions of ideology.’ [1])

IC has drawn attention, in various connections, to what we regret having to call eidostaticisation, and it turns up again here. At the 1992 conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists several papers condemned Mrs. Thatcher’s 1988 speech on the environment as ‘an appropriation of what had been until then a protest idiom.’ One speaker demanded ‘a new moral discourse’ to replace ‘the co-opted, degraded and “unsuccessful” orthodox environmentalism of our time.’ [2] A movement taken up by the eidostatics loses the spirit and purpose that gave it value for its eidodynamic originators, but movements seldom if ever achieve their aims, or even approach them, without undergoing this ‘degradation.’

There is little reason for the establishment to worry more about the greens than about the reds. Whether its members need to worry about what industry is doing to the planet is a different matter, but with the reformers and revolutionaries drumming it into us how well our rulers have looked after their own interests so far, why should we expect them to lose this ability now? And they can hardly preserve the environment for their own benefit without saving it for the rest of us.

[1] S. Mills, TLS 26 June.
[2] Anthropology Today, June.

from Ideological Commentary 57, August 1992.