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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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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)
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