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The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000


The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000 Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The accelerating interpenetration of nature and culture is the hallmark of the new "light-green" social order that has emerged in postwar France, argues Michael Bess in this penetrating new history. On one hand, a preoccupation with natural qualities and equilibrium has increasingly infused France's economic and cultural life. On the other, human activities have laid an ever more potent and pervasive touch on the environment, whether through the intrusion of agriculture, industry, and urban growth, or through the much subtler and more well-intentioned efforts of ecological management.

The Light-Green Society limns sharply these trends over the last fifty years. The rise of environmentalism in the 1960s stemmed from a fervent desire to "save" wild nature-nature conceived as a qualitatively distinct domain, wholly separate from human designs and endeavors. And yet, Bess shows, after forty years of environmentalist agitation, much of it remarkably successful in achieving its aims, the old conception of nature as a "separate sphere" has become largely untenable. In the light-green society, where ecology and technological modernity continually flow together, a new hybrid vision of intermingled nature-culture has increasingly taken its place.

About the Author

Michael Bess is an associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Realism, Utopia, and the Mushroom Cloud: Four Activist Intellectuals and their Strategies for Peace, 1945-1989, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Part I - The Postwar Acceleration


1. Nukes, Concordes, and Anxiety

The French "Special Relationship" with High Technology

Ambivalent Modernity

Europe's Nuclear Macho? Perceptions of France as a Relatively "Ungreen" Nation

The Postwar Boom: Continuity vs. Discontinuity

Technological Darwinism

The Great Renewal

Machine/Symbol: The Concorde

The Role of Nuclear Technology within the National Discourse of Anxiety

French Perceptions of the Rainbow Warrior Affair

2. Endangered Species: The French Peasant

The Rural Future: A Key Issue for the French Greens

Machine/Symbol: Le Cheval Vapeur (Farm tractor, or "Steam-Horse")

The Cultural Backlash: In Search of a New Rural Balance

Territorial Balancing

French Uniqueness, French Ordinariness

Part II - The Rise of Ecology

3. The Prehistory fo Ecological Awareness

Environmentalism and Ecology: Working Definitions

Nineteenth-Century Precursors in France: From "Acclimatation" to Conservation

From Unity to Beauty: The Early Twentieth Century

1945-1960: Warnings Unheeded

4. The Unexpected Trajectory of Environmentalist Success

1960-1974: Taking it to a New Level

1974-1981: Eco-Quixote vs. Electricitandeacute; de France

Machine/Symbol: The Nuclear Reactor

1981-1989: Entering the Political Fray

1989-present: "Tous Verts!"and#8212;"We are all environmentalists!"

5. Nuances of Dark Green

The Intellectual Horizons of French Environmentalism

A Revolution against the Industrial Revolution

The Two Main Currents of French Green Thought

Social Environmentalism: Four Interlocking Agendas

What Is Distinctive about the French Green Visions?

6. What Might It Actually Look Like?

The French Green Utopia: A Guided Tour

Machine/Symbol: The Wind Turbine

Part III - A Society Goes Light-Green

7. The Dual Nature of Light-Green

Nature Penetrating into Societyand#8212;Machine/Symbol: The Train andagrave; Grande Vitesse

Society Penetrating into Natureand#8212;Machine/Symbol: Brittany's Pointe du Raz

8. Greening the Mainstream Consumer

Ironic Twists of a Partial Revolution

Surface Change and Deep Change

Back to Nature

Eco-consumerism: The Overflowing Cornucopia of "Less is More"

Eco-labels and "Eco-Friendliness"

9. The Environmentalization of the State

Anti-statism, More Government

The Layer Cake of Green Governance: Six Levels, Three Modes

Key State Actors, Key Legal Turning-Points

10. Industrialists as Ecologists

Factories and Big Business: New Constraints, New Strategies

ISO-14000 and Eco-Audit: The Case of an Industrial Pioneer

The New Eco-Professions: Expansion in the Tertiary Sector

11. Elusive Sustainability

A Territorial Balance Sheet

The State of the French Territory: An Ecocentric Perspective

The Anthropocentric Perspective: Is the Light-Green Society Sustainable as a Habitat for Humans?

Part IV - The Future of Nature in a Light-Green World: Long-Term Global Implications

12. The Light-Green Horizon

Broader Implications of the French Story

Humans and Nature on a Shrinking Earth

13. Artificialization and Its Discontents

The Rising Tide of Artifice

Machine/Symbol: Biotechnologies

La Gestion du Vivant: The "Management of All Living Things"

14. The Enduring Mirage of Wilderness

Philosophies of Nature for a Technologically Intensive Age

If Not the Dualism of Nature and Culture, then What?

The Case for Hybridity: A World of Intertwinings

The Case for Dualism: Wilderness as the Irreducible Other

From Wilderness to Wildness: A Paradoxical Synthesis

15. The Shifting Landscape of Tame and Wild

Nature Penetrating into Society: Emerging Connectedness

Society Penetrating into Nature: Ambiguous Control

16. A Cosmic Wilderness?

Cousteau's Grandchildren Swim the Rings of Saturn


The Age of Ecology Arrives (But it is not what anyone expected)

A Planet of Paysage?




Product Details

Bess, Michael
University of Chicago Press
Europe - France
Environmental Conservation & Protection
Modern - 20th Century
Green movement
Environmental Conservation & Protection - General
Environmentalism -- France -- History.
Green movement -- France -- History.
World History-France
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
4 halftones, 4 line drawings
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » France » General
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Ecology
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General

The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000 New Trade Paper
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Product details 387 pages University of Chicago Press - English 9780226044187 Reviews:
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