Volume 17, Issue 1, Spring 1995
From Natural Identity to Radical Democracy
Environmentalism is traversed by a dilemma between a movement toward identity politics and the impossibility of a speaking natural subject; this dilemma calls into question both the relevance of identity politics for ecological struggle and dominant classical constructions of the subject itself. Using Lacanianinspired insights on subjectivity, and the works of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe on radical democracy, I investigate the alternative versions of the subject implicit in ecological discourses and suggest that it is through these alternatives that environmentalism can forge necessary alliances with other movements oriented toward human liberation. In particular, the very impossibility of a natural speaking subject suggests that the ecological project of redefining humanity’s relationships to nonhuman nature(s) is always contingent on reorienting human subjectivity itself; this fact highlights the centrality of political coalition between ecological and other social movements.