Anthony Giddens : The Politics of Habit

The habitual trend in politics is to utter without having done sufficient research, just relying on cultural assumptions, watercooler talk, hearsay and what you read in the newspapers, which is dumbed down and always resorts to cultural prejudices.

At least Anthony Giddens in his book “The Politics of Climate Change”, attempts to get beyond that kind of gutter press and move into the heady air of the moral mountain heights. But he takes with him some extraordinarily unhelpful baggage, Classical Economics being part of it. Plus, an inability to see the wood for the trees.

Allow me to quote from his Introduction :-

http://books.google.com/books?id=yXJKxmd2tWgC&printsec=frontcover&cd=1&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Page 1


START OF QUOTATION

INTRODUCTION

This is a book about nightmares, catastrophes – and dreams. It is also about the everyday, the routines that give our lives continuity and substance. It is about SUVs – Sports Utility Vehicles, or 4x4s. The book is a prolonged enquiry into a single question: why does anyone, anyone at all, for even a single day longer, continue to drive an SUV ? For their drivers have to be aware that they are contributing to a crisis of epic proportions concerning the world’s climate. On the face of things, what could be more disturbing than the possibility that they are helping to undermine the very basis of human civilization?

In case it isn’t obvious, I hasten to add that SUVs are a metaphor. If I can put it this way, we are all SUV drivers, because so few of us are geared up to the profundity of the threats we face. For most people there is a gulf between the familiar preoccupations of everyday life and an abstract, even if apocalyptic, future of climate chaos. Almost everyone across the world must have heard the phrase ‘climate change’ and know at least a bit about what it means. It refers to the fact that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by modern industry are causing the earth’s climate to warm up, with potentially devastating consequences for the future. Yet the vast majority are doing very little, if anything at all, to alter their daily habits, even though those habits are the source of the dangers that climate change has in store for us.

END OF QUOTATION


He asks the question : “The book is a prolonged enquiry into a single question: why does anyone, anyone at all, for even a single day longer, continue to drive an SUV ?”

The underlying assumptions here are that car manufacturers have every right in the world to sell SUV motor vehicles; and that every travelling consumer has the right to purchase a motor vehicle for the purpose of travelling.

He asks : why do people continue to drive SUVs ? I ask : why are SUVs still on sale ?

If I, as a consumer, have the right to a full smorgasbord of choice, then every choice open to me should be the “green” choice, the Low Carbon choice. Then I could not be held responsible for choosing to drive a dirty car.

Anthony Giddens writes : “Almost everyone across the world must have heard the phrase ‘climate change’ … Yet the vast majority are doing very little, if anything at all, to alter their daily habits, even though those habits are the source of the dangers that climate change has in store for us.”

My issue with this is to summarised in this question : how is it that my daily habits and my consumer choices are at fault, here ? Why does Anthony Giddens feel so free to blame the poor citizen-consumers ?

It’s not the habits of the ordinary citizen-consumer that need changing, it’s the production habits of the world’s Energy and Mining corporations. If they didn’t dig up Coal, Oil, Natural Gas and Uranium so messily and sell them on to people who use them wastefully and cause pollution, then there would be no problem.

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