SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHL224385
Module Leader Xander Kirke
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Politics
  • A (September start)
  • B (January start)
  • C (May start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

The complettion of a level 3 social sciences module.

Summary of Content

This research-led module provides students with an awareness and understanding of the political dimensions of environmental thought. It examines the ethics of the environment; the concepts of sustainable development and ecological modernisation; the tensions that exist between environmentalism and democracy; the class aspects of environmentalism; and the performance of political parties in relation to environmental issues. It also explores the interplay between environmental issues and established political ideologies, such as anarchism, liberalism, feminism and socialism, and outlines and analyses the differing visions of the 'green society' to herald from these ideologies. Summary of how PRME-related issues / topics are covered in this module: The module encourages students to scrutinise environmental issues from various ethical and ideological perspectives. It provides them with an in-depth knowledge of various key concepts in green political economy and facilitates a greater understanding of the manner in which environmental political thought manifests itself politically in agents for social change.


The module is comprised of 5 interlinked sections: 1) Introduction; 2) Environmental Ethics; 3) The Influence of Radical Ideologies; 4) Greening the State; 5) Getting from Here to There. Following the introductory section, the subject matter gradually 'descends' from the abstract and philosophical to the grounded and political. The introductory section provides an historical overview of the origins and development of environmental political thought. Following this there is a section on environmental ethics, which examines topics such as the dominance of anthropocentric ethics; the moral status of animals; biocentric and ecocentric ethics; and the philosophy of deep ecology. The module then examines the influence of radical ideologies by outlining and critically analysing ecoanarchism, ecosocialism and ecofeminism. A fourth section, entitled 'Greening the State', shifts the focus from radical blueprints to attempts to render existing institutions, processes and systems ecologically sustainable. This section looks at green political economy, and in particular the concepts of sustainable development and ecological odernisation, as well as examining the tensions that exist between democracy, which is an inherently open-ended process, and environmental goals, which are often presented as imperatives. The final section then engages with the question of 'Getting From Here to There'. In other words, it looks at theories of social change from an environmental perspective. Various vehicles for change are considered in this respect, including interest groups and the environmental 'new social movement' more generally; trade unions and the labour movement; and green parties.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module the student should be able to:1). Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the shifting manner in which environmental problems areconceptualised;2). Understand the impact and relevance of environmental ethics;3). Show an understanding of key concepts in environmental economics, such as sustainable development andecological modernisation4). Recognise the manner in which environmental thinking informs, and is in turn informed by, existing political ideologies;5). Demonstrate an understanding of how environmental thinking manifests itself politically in agents for social change,such as interest groups and political parties.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

Content will be delivered via a combination of seminars, online lectures and online directed learning tasks. Online lectures take the form of narrated PowerPoint presentations converted into video format. This approach enables students to 'consume' lectures at their own convenience and pace. They can be accessed at any time using a variety of computing devices, from desktops to iPhones, and can be re-viewed as many times as the student finds useful. Lectures are bundled together into key themes, each of which has a corresponding seminar. The aim in seminars is to harness the epistemic value of structured deliberative communication. In order to ensure that students are adequately prepared for seminars they are provided with discussion questions in advance and are required to consult set readings. They are also encouraged to engage in preparatory online directed learning tasks, such as the creation of wikis, multiple choice quizzes and taking part in online discussions. These feed into seminar discussions. Coursework will be submitted and marked electronically via Grademark.

Indicative Reading

Books and articles: Barry, J. (1999) Rethinking Green Politics (London: Sage). Carter, N. (2007) The Politics of the Environment, 2nd Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Davidson, S. (2007) 'The Troubled Marriage of Deep Ecology and Bioregionalism', Environmental Values, Vol. 16(3): 313-332 Davidson, S. (2009) 'Ecoanarchism: A Critical Defence', Journal of Political Ideologies, Vol. 14 (1): 47-67. Davidson, S. (2012) 'The Insuperable Imperative: A Critique of the Ecologically Modernizing State', Capitalism Nature Socialism, Vol. 23(2): 31-50. DesJardins, J. R. (2013) Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy (Wadsworth). Dobson, A. (2007) Green Political Thought, 4th Edition (London: Routledge). Dobson, A. and Eckersley, R. (eds.) (2006) Political Theory and the Ecological Challenge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Eckersley, E. (1992) Environmentalism and Political Theory: Towards an Ecocentric Approach (London: UCL Press). Eckersley, E. (2004) The Green State: Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty (London: MIT Press). James, S. P. (2015) Environmental Philosphy: An Introduction (Cambridge: Polity Press). Kovel, J. (2007) The Enemy of Nature, 2nd Edition (London: Zed Books). Lafferty, W. M. and Meadowcroft, J. (1996) Democracy and the Environment: Problems and Prospects (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar). Light, A. and Rolston III, H. (eds.) (2003) Environmental Ethics: An Anthology (London: Blackwell). Mol, A. P. J. and Sonnenfeld, D. A. (eds.) (2000) Ecological Modernisation Around the World: Perspectives and Critical Debates (London: Frank Cass). O'Connor, J. (1998) Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism (New York: Guilford Press). Online sources: Various journals, including Environmental Politics, Environmental Values, Environmental Ethics, the Journal of Political Ideologies and Political Studies.

Transferrable Skills

-3 The transferable skills which should be developed are: - the capacity to execute set tasks and in doing so manage time and personal organisation effectively; - written and oral communication skills; - skills in critical thinking and analysis.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Lectures (FT) 12.00
Assessment (FT) 62.00
Independent Learning (FT) 114.00
Seminars (FT) 12.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
CW2 Course Work 02 n/a 50.00 n/a 2000-word essay
CW1 Course Work 01 n/a 50.00 n/a Weekly asynchronous activity