Liberal Democracy and the Rights of Nature: The Struggle for Inclusion (R. Eckersley)


Robyn Eckersley


econcentricism, democracy, rights of nature, liberal democracy, liberalism


Is there a necessary, in‐principle connection between ecocentric values and democracy or is the relationship merely contingent? Is it possible to incorporate the interests of the non‐human community into the ground rules of democracy? Through an immanent ecological critique of the regulative ideals and institutions of liberal democracy, it is suggested that ecocentric values and democracy can be connected to some extent ‐ at least in the same way that liberalism and democracy are connected ‐ through an extension of the principle of autonomy and the rights discourse to include ecological interests. However, the move from autonomy, to rights, to an ecologically grounded democracy encounters a number of hazards, not all of which can be successfully negotiated owing to the individualistic premises of the rights discourse. While the rights discourse may be extended to include human environmental rights and animal rights in relation to captive and domesticated species, it becomes considerably strained and unworkable (ontologically, politically and legally) in relation to the remaining constituents of the biotic community.


(2007) 4 Environmental Politics 169


Liberal Democracy and the Rights of Nature: The Struggle for Inclusion