CALL FOR PAPERS – A Constructive Environmentalism (Special issue on Steven Vogel)

Deadline: January 9th, 2023

Since the 1980s, Steven Vogel’s critical theory has been distinctive in environmental philosophy for both its rigor and its definite position. Particularly in Against Nature (1996) and Thinking like a Mall (2015), Vogel articulated a constructive environmentalism that simultaneously analyzes the fields of environmental ethics and politics in terms of the critical theory of social alienation and proposes a discourse-based, socialist form of environmentalism grounded in working out the meaning and norms of our environment together through difficult solidarity. In the last decade especially, social constructivist positions in environmental philosophy have come under criticism from a range of positions in environmental thought from new materialism, Actor Network Theory, and object-oriented ontology to a family of approaches articulating how the more than human world is communicative. Anti- and de-colonial environmentalisms have pressed hard on the purported anthropocentrism of positions such as Vogel’s which center the communicative power of human agents in the construction of politics and environmental norms.

Yet Vogel’s position is subtle and not easily assimilated into such criticisms. His constructive environmentalism not only explains how these criticisms work on us – through discourse – but much of what is involved in world-making that people can accept. This latter dimension of Vogel’s work is powerful given the renewed sensitivity to the importance of world-making in contemporary anti-colonial, post-colonial and de-colonial thought, as well as within radical agendas for post-carbon, staunchly egalitarian, reparatively just, and democratic futures.

For instance, Vogel’s constructive environmentalism plausibly and inferentially bears on energy democracy, the philosophy of infrastructure, planetary urbanization, socio-spatial analyses of metabolic capitalism and extractivism, Marxism for the 21st century, materialisms old and new, the question of politics as a process in the more than human world, restructuring society, solidarity, discourse practices of ceremony and ritual as forms of resistance and community constitution, and pluriversal politics. Moreover, Vogel’s work is practically relevant to important debates around socio-natures – e.g. ecosystem engineering and biotechnological interventions in the construction of an environment that is worth conserving and that is adaptive in the face of rapid planetary environmental change.

An image of miners from 1890

The purpose of this special issue of Environmental Ethics is to re-evaluate and draw on Vogel’s work, sympathetically or antipathetically. The preposition “around” in the SI title is meant to leave room for a variety of responses to, or engagements with, Vogel’s work. Contributors need not focus narrowly on the contextual framing of this CFP. Please think about your interest in Vogel’s thought first and worry about the context later. The editors are tasked with making things gel.

We seek papers of 6,000-10,000 words (hard limits) in the format of Environmental Ethics. The deadline for the initial round of submissions is January 9th, 2023. If you have questions about how your take on Vogel’s work might relate to the SI, please reach out and talk with us. We intend this editorial process to be collaborative and evolving.

Please send inquiries to Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, Professor of Philosophy, Case Western Reserve University and Senior Research Fellow, Earth System Governance Project, at Team editors include Jonathan Maskit Associate Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies, Denison University and Ronald Sandler, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and Director of the Ethics Institute, Northeastern University. Submissions should also be sent to the above email address.