The purported stagnation of the mainstream American environmental movement has coincided with what many consider the rise of the neoliberal era. My project attempts to track the relationship between the two. Building from the cultural turn in economic sociology, this dissertation examines the American environmental movement: specifically, how environmentalists’ understanding of the relationship between environmental concerns and economic markets has changed between the 1960s and today. Through a mixed-methods combination of content and discourse analysis, I examine how voices presented in the member-directed newsletters of three major American environmental organizations have articulated the ecological advantages and disadvantages of various elements of a free, self-regulating market economy. I concentrate on moments of perceived crisis, including the Reagan administration’s explicitly pro-market and anti-environmental agenda and the specter of global climate change. While environmentalists’ faith in the market increases over time, I argue that perceived crises, both legislative and environmental, shape environmental actors’ acceptance or rejection of the importance of free-market principles.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2019. Major: Sociology. Advisors: David Pellow, Douglas Hartmann. 1 computer file (PDF);vi, 198 pages.
Romancing the Market, Rationalizing Nature: Transformations in Environmentalists’ Economic Thought, 1960-2014.
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