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

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9780226044187: The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000
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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.

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About the Author:

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

Review:

"This is a very readable academic work. The author places happenings in France in a broader context of environmentalism in general. . . . Even those with a cursory knowledge of modern French history will find this not to be a huge handicap."
(Christine Taft E-Streams)

"Bess's well-researched, elegantly written book should help put France back on the environmentalists' map. Bess documents how the French have made strides in improving environmental quality. . . . More interestingly, he argues that their humanistic traditions provide conceptual resources for an attractive, generally applicable model of responsible environmental management. . . . Future historians will want to turn to Bess's fine account of France's environmental choices to understand what went wrong--or right."

(Kerry H. Whiteside Environmental Values)

"[Bess] provides a novel paradigm through which historians can consider the evolution of environmental policies in France and other industrial countries. . . . One of the few English-language histories on the French environmental movement. As such, it is a must read." (W. Brian Newsome Canadian Journal of History)

"This is an exciting and original examination of the knotty history of environmentalism and how it has permeated every aspect of French political and cultural life. . . . Bess's style is engaging and conversational. This is a tour de force of environmental history. . . . An outstanding scholarly contribution to the relationship between technology, culture, and the green environment." (Rosemary Wakeman Technology & Society)

"Through its hitorical subject and methodology, The Light-Green Society demonstrates how nature and technology are critical to understanding the politics, culture, and society of modern France." (Sara B. Pritchard French Politics, Culture & Society)

"Bess's philosophical training gives this perennial interrogation a rather Pascalian turn, offering a none-too threatening wager--this light-green France may well represent the shape of things to come." (Pierre Claude Reynard Journal of Social History)

"A much-needed environmental history of France during the late twentieth century, this book covers the growth of the country's environmentalist organizations, as well as their effects on French consumers and policy-makers. . . . The best kind of social history." (Edwar Ousselin French Review)

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