The Green New Deal as counter-hegemony

Buthelezi, Awande Mlondolozi Keabetswe
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This thesis explores the counter-hegemonic potential of the Green New Deal, by enquiring as to whether the Green New Deal can be considered a counter-hegemonic project in the United States. This paper’s analysis is rooted in an appreciation of the ways in which politico-ideological projects are formed within a historical context. The structural frameworks that make up societies are a result of these historically determined politico-ideological projects. These politico-ideological projects, which are more commonly understood through the notion of cultural hegemny, are how we understand the character of an existing social order. Therefore, in its efforts to determine whether the Green New Deal can be considered a counter-hegemonic project this paper begins this process through an outline of the New Deal; which serves as a historical analogue of the Green New Deal. From this point the paper explores the historical construction of the two principle hegemonic projects of the post-war era, embedded liberalism and neoliberalism. The elucidation of these two hegemonic projects and the transition between them, gives us a contextual understanding of what hegemonic projects are, how they are formed, the forces responsible for their formation and the nature of hegemonic transitions. From this perspective the paper gives specific focus to carbon capital, as a faction of the current ruling hegemonic coalition in the United States. The emphasis on carbon capital gives us an understanding of the place occupied by the fossil fuel industry within the current hegemonic order, which also gives us a deeper understanding of how any counter-hegemonic project must work to counteract their influence. Finally the paper ends with an interrogation of the Green New Deal and its potential as a counter-hegemonic project; building off of the historical context of the previous chapters. The analysis is done through an exploration of the origins of the Green New Deal, framing and the challenges of building a coalition of pro-Green New Deal forces. The concluding argument of this thesis is that the Green New Deal framework cannot yet be considered as a counter-hegemonic project. The paper argues that the Green New Deal framework represents a spectrum where one end reflects the politico-ideological principles of the current hegemonic project and on the opposite end a more radical and truly counter-hegemonic project. The paper argues that the Green New Deal currently represents a process of “interest articulation and aggregation” with counter-hegemonic potential, building towards a truly counter-hegemonic project
Research report presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts by Coursework and Research (Development Studies) at the University of the Witwatersrand, School of Social Sciences, 2020