chapter  9
20 Pages

Straw Dogs, Blind Horses and Post-Humanism: The Greening of Gray?

WithJohn Barry

With the exception of political theorists such as Brian Barry, and to a lesser extent Charles Taylor and David Miller, John Gray is one of the few major modern thinkers within what one can call the ‘mainstream’ of contemporary political theorizing of to have discussed Green or ecological issues and ideas. Equally, he is one of the most intriguing and idiosyncratic. While the overwhelming bulk of contemporary political theory, particularly debates within liberalism, has little if anything to say about ecological concerns, Gray has been a notable exception in his interest in and integration of ecological themes and issues into his thinking. An important landmark in Gray’s journey from supporter of the free market distemper of the 1980s to a Green, scientifically based post-humanism in his latest works, can be traced to a chapter entitled ‘An Agenda for Green Conservatism’ in his 1993 book, Beyond the New Right, which offers his first exploration into distinctly ‘Green’ political territory. From this exploratory article onwards, significant aspects of Gray’s thought

and the themes he has tackled in his ‘post-liberalism’, has seemed to move in a ‘Green’ direction. From his trenchant critique of the Enlightenment and the selfdefeating Prometheanism of a technologically focused conception of progress,1 his rejection of globalising capitalism as a dystopian fantasy, to his wholesale embracing of James Lovelock’s ‘Gaia hypothesis’, to his defence of better treatment of animals and championing of non-western and mystical traditions of thinking and the integration of these normative concerns with a hard-headed ‘realpolitik’ analysis of geopolitical conflict in an age of ecological scarcity are all themes that, on first gloss, make him a ‘Green’ thinker.