The Consultants' Republic: A Review of Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger's 'Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility'
Douglas A. Kysar
Yale University - Law School
March 16, 2011
Harvard Law Review, Vol. 121, 2008
This essay reviews Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger's recent book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, in which the authors argue that the future of environmentalism, and of American politics more broadly, lies not in stronger evidence, better science, and more reasoned appeals to the public, but instead in sheer marketing acumen, in forming and framing policy goals in a manner that activates the deeply embedded values and cognitive metaphors of the public. The essay first argues that Nordhaus and Shellenberger's critique of environmentalism overlooks the diversity that exists within the environmental movement and that, to a large extent, anticipates the themes they claim to be introducing. The essay then examines Nordhaus and Shellenberger's proposed alternative to environmentalism, a version of Richard Rorty - inspired romantic pragmatism that the authors dub the politics of possibility. The essay argues that Nordhaus and Shellenberger's alternative approach is ultimately self-undermining, in that virtually any policy aim on their account could be packaged and marketed to activate virtually any cultural worldview. Finally, the essay takes a more constructive turn, identifying the kinds of questions that a truly post-environmental politics would be required to answer in order to avoid the nightmare of Nordhaus and Shellenberger's republic of consultants.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 44Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: November 28, 2007 ; Last revised: March 17, 2011
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