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Ideologies of Nature and Sustainability: A critical discourse analysis

In exploring ideologies of nature, sustainability and EE, I have had several goals in mind. Firstly, I want to trace the continuities and disruptions in Western ideologies of nature, and in particular, to locate them within the material context of the historical trajectory of the capitalist mode of production (CMP). That is, the ideologies of nature explored in this thesis are treated as integral to the historical and dialectical unfolding of the CMP. Many historical ideas on nature, particularly those since the Enlightenment, have become incorporated in dominant forms of social thought that are integral to Western capitalist development. In the present era of neoliberal-led global capitalism, these same fundamental ideologies are expressed in neoliberal forms within policy contexts, which are explored in the latter part of this thesis. Initially, I explore these ideologies of nature using Foucault’s genealogical strategy. This exploration is detailed in the first two articles in this thesis. These articles provide a foundational platform to analyse how the neoliberal project has harnessed dominant, common-sense ideologies of nature (for example, nature as benevolent and all-giving; nature as an ecosystem) and articulated them with capitalist ideologies (nature as resource, commodity or service for humankind). Through this discursive struggle for neoliberal ascendency, basic capitalist ideologies of nature have been reasserted and brought to the foreground. In this respect, I hope to capture the essential and invariant ideological core of the capitalist view of nature; how its form changes over time and space and, in particular, to examine its mid-range expression in this neoliberal era. Secondly, this thesis aims to document and analyse these ideologies of nature in terms of their humanist, androcentric and anthropocentric orientation. It is argued that these are also integral to the core and essential form of the capitalist view of nature. This is significant to my critique, in the latter half of this thesis, of EE, EfS) or EfSD policy. As Michael Bonnett (2007) has argued, official environmental education policy globally largely ignores the question of nature. In short, it has become invisible as dominant capitalist ideologies of nature seek to redefine it in instrumental terms as ‘resource’ or ‘ecosystem service’. Accordingly, I demonstrate that ideologies are not clearly demarcated and contained within labelled categories but are rather divergent and interlaced with a range of presuppositions. It is in uncovering underpinning premises about our relation as humans to nature within discursive positionings that is central to the analysis of environmental education. The meaning of ‘nature’, our underlying attitude and our relationship to it is thus of critical significance to this thesis. Thirdly, this thesis explores how these ideologies manifest within the political struggles of our times. I intend to demonstrate in this thesis, that neoliberal ideologies of nature operating within specific policy settings are constitutive of a particular form of the capitalist worldview concerning human-nature relations.
Type of thesis
Tulloch, L. (2017). Ideologies of Nature and Sustainability: A critical discourse analysis (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11203
University of Waikato
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