REVIEWING THE LITERATURE, SITUATING THE THEORY
The Review's Structure
Now that we’ve outlined our theory of ecocentric leadership, we’re able to situate it within the burgeoning field of environmental leadership studies (ELS). By “situate,” I mean a process involving critically comparing and contrasting the conceptualization developed here with some of the field’s most important English-language texts. (Hence, one of the many questions opened up by this study but can’t be addressed by it is whether/to what extent ELS has developed in the non-English-speaking world. Furthermore, given that the present work follows the rigorous postulation innovatively redeveloped in Following Reason that leading differs from managing, the review does not include works belonging to the adjacent field of environmental management studies (e.g., Pauchant and Fortier 1990; Hanna 1995; Russo 1999; Darnall and others 2000; Harris and Crane 2002; Fujii and Managi 2016). However, the retracing does identify cases where eco-leadership scholars confuse leading with managing. Another reason why this review is rather limited is because a thorough retracing of the entire field of ELS would be a massive task in itself that would greatly expand the book’s already-expansive ambit.
The review is arranged according to three sometimes-overlapping categories, so they should be understood more in terms of a continuum than absolutely distinct classifications: “Early Efforts,” “Conservative-Regressive ELS,” and “Critical-Progressive ELS.” The labels are fairly self-explanatory but require some clarifications and qualifications here. First of all, I reiterate that these are not (always) clear-cut categories; writings may exhibit both regressive and progressive elements (e.g., Vredenburg and Westley 1993; Brymer and others 2010; Bettridge and Whiteley 2013). Turning to the first classification, I pay quite sustained attention to the early works, not only because they often offer a variety of engaging insights but also because some of them appear to have been neglected by more recent research, so the review also acts as a kind of homage to these pioneering works.
The second category (“conservative-regressive ELS”) refers to the group of discourses that remain ensconced in dominant, oppressive, and anti-environmental ideological frameworks such as anthropocentrism and neoliberalism, with their myths of “sustainable development” (for critiques, refer to, e.g., Daly 1990; Plant and Plant 1991; Gunderson, Holing and Light 1995; Springett 2003; Banerjee 2004; Monbiot 2012, 2015), “perpetual economic growth” (Harvey 2014; Satyajit 2017), and so on. These writings lack critical awareness and truly eco-ethical prescriptions, as well as also often being conceptually unclear - especially about founding concepts like “leadership” and “management.” I substantiate this claim by analyzing three texts to demonstrate their shortcomings. The fact that this group constitutes a large body of work but whose lack of rigor essentially excludes them from this retracing is a further reason why the present review is not absolutely comprehensive. We also note that I insert the term “regressive” in “conservative-regressive” to differentiate the word “conservative” from other, more progressive significations (e.g., “environmental conservation”).
Next, there is the third category of “critical-progressive ELS”: “critical” refers to the questioning/criticism of conventional leadership and eco-leadership models, and “progressive” refers to works that are more enlightened and forward-thinking, which includes abandoning anthropocentrism and drawing closer to ecocentrism (even critical-progressive ELS tends to remain biocentric). As is the case with the regressive category, I do not survey every significant critical-progressive work but rather highlight a number of the most important writings. And so, the review is more selective than sweeping, even though it remains quite comprehensive within its limited scope: I’ve been unable to identify a more comprehensive review of ELS (especially its more critical-progressive works). But to reiterate: the retracing does not seek to map every contribution to ELS but a number of the most significant ones, and I critically compare a number of them with my theorization. Of course, the discipline warrants a comprehensive history - though the fact that such a project appears to have not yet been undertaken/completed testifies to the still-relatively-nascent character of our field.
For the sake of minimizing repetition, I also use synonymous terms for the two classifications of “conservative-regressive” and “critical-progressive”: I occasionally employ the established scholarly categories of “Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP)” and “New Environmental/Ecological Paradigm (NEP)” (Pirages and Ehrlich 1973; Dunlap and van Liere 1978, 1984; Dunlap and others 2000; Boiral, Cayer and Baron 2009) - with the provision that I recognize that even the New Ecological Paradigm may not be so “new,” given that it often appears to retain vestiges of anthropocentrism and other dominant mindsets-practices (Lundmark 2007).