Shocks, states, and societal corporatism: a shorter path to sustainability?
Fatalism about the inevitability of disruptive climate change has spread in recent years among environmentally concerned citizens. Slow moving, delayed, and ineffectual campaigns to limit greenhouse gas emissions have persuaded some observers that industrial societies are incapable of enacting and implementing thoroughgoing environmental reforms. This paper tries to counter this pessimism by outlining the circumstances that enabled rapid and far-reaching environmental reforms during the twentieth century. It does so through a comparative historical analysis of radical environmental reforms in Maine, the Great Plains, Cuba, and England. Three circumstances spurred these episodes of radical reform. Disruptive focusing events alarmed people by underlining sharp limits in the resources available to them. In response to the alarm, citizens and elites mobilized across scales to press for change. The changes occurred through corporatist political processes in which practitioners like farmers and real estate developers altered the norms governing environmentally consequential activities in ways beneficial to the environment.
KeywordsFocusing events Radical environmental reforms Caged populations Corporatism
I would like to thank Tom Heberlein for insightful comments on an earlier draft of this article.
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