Rejecting Amanda Machin’s Complacent Democracy

Environmental Ethics 39 (2):211-233 (2017)
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Machin defends a new approach to climate change, which some claim is an “original” and “lucid” contribution that will “revitalize” the debate. Drawing on Slavoj Žižek’s interpretation of parallax and Chantal Mouffe’s radical democracy, Machin focuses on negotiation rather than moral argument, arguing that we should embrace disagreement. In the process of defending her view, Machin dismisses Naomi Klein, and various moral philosophers, arguing that framing the debate in terms of moral argument is ineffective, divisive, and ultimately leads to extremism and climate change denial. However, Machin does not challenge, or engage with, the extensive empirical evidence that suggests that the growth in climate change denial was the result of the “Merchants of Doubt” coordinating campaigns of misinformation, and Machin’s rejection of other views is often based on misrepresentations. Furthermore, Machin’s arguments commit her to an implausible relativism, and the view she defends is morally bereft, and would leave corruption and corporate influence unchecked. Contrary to Machin’s assertions, the history of the abolition of slavery demonstrates that moral argument has a crucial role to play in social change and progress, and should be a crucial part of any democracy, as should a commitment to truth, consistency, and scientific knowledge.



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Rob Lawlor
University of Leeds

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