The green legacy of 1989: revolutions, environmentalism and the global age

Corry, Olaf (2014). The green legacy of 1989: revolutions, environmentalism and the global age. Political Studies, 62(2) pp. 309–325.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9248.12034

Abstract

In the immediate aftermath, the Eastern European revolutions of 1989 were interpreted as a ‘rectifying revolution’: the experiment of 1917 was cast off and liberal democratic institutions were copied from the West. Recent analysis has gone some way to challenging this, suggesting that the 1989 revolutions helped launch historically distinct political methods. Meanwhile it has largely been forgotten that the dissidents and revolutionaries across Eastern Europe also relied on a strong substantive environmentalist critique of industrial society, expansionary economics and instrumental reason. More specifically, many of the human rights and democracy movements began as, or were meshed with, environmentalist organizations, and from very early on dissidents linked their non-violent and anti-authoritarian strategies of resistance to state socialism to explicitly environmentalist critiques of industrialism and growth. This article argues that although environmentalism was overshadowed by human rights and direct demands for political reform it was a significant feature of the revolutionary process in the ways it allowed dissidents to critique socialist as well as capitalist systems, provided a focus to the idea of civil society and, and tapped into a wider emerging globalist political narrative in which the limits of the Earth and of rationalist control over it were made apparent.

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