Volume 11, 2018
David R. Keller
Political Economy as Foundation for Environmental Ethics
In this paper, I argue that the subject of environmental ethics demands the critique of political economy: a political economy is always at the core of the human relationship to nonhuman nature. The elaboration of an ecological political economy is therefore a central task of Environmental Ethics. I make this argument in 4 stages. First, I argue that an “economy” is the interface of a social system (culture) and the biosphere. This interface is the political economy. Second, I argue for a principle of ontological interconnectedness between the human and the nonhuman. Third, I argue that since no human society exists without an economic fundament, the political economy is directly integrated to the ecology of the local. Here we have a standard for normativity: the consistency or inconsistency of a political economy with its ecological system provides a standard for normativity. Fourth, I conclude by asserting that the task of environmental ethics inexorably involves the critique of political economy. Environmental ethics concerns the human relationship to nonhuman nature. Because the fundament of the relationship of humans to nonhuman nature is economic, the subject of environmental ethics ultimately leads to a critique of the political economy in terms of the lessons of ecological science. Therefore, the goal of environmental ethics is the elaboration of ecological political economy.