Environmentalism and democracy in Hungary and Latvia

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Richard Schwartz


Environmentalism, Democracy, Hungary, Latvia, Social movements

Subject Categories

Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Environmentalism reflects how we define and participate in social and political life (Harper, 1999; Melucci, 1989). Additionally, while there are several different kinds of environmentalism, the particular environmentalism that is engaged in any society reflects the capacity for democratic governance in that society. In this dissertation, I invite you to reflect on a particularly interesting manifestation of environmentalism on social and political life in two countries of the former communist bloc of Central and Eastern Europe, Hungary and Latvia that more than a decade ago made the transition to democracy. The communist regimes fell apart as environmental movements grew and spread across the former socialist states like a green breath of fresh air bringing with it a democratic governance regime characterized largely by the implementation of a multiparty parliamentary system, rule of law, and a budding civil society. Indeed, the first signs of civic life to emerge in Central and Eastern Europe with the decline of communism were environmental associations (Crampton, 1994, 97). Hungary and Latvia provide comparative cases to shed light on how the replacement of the old centralized, single ruling structure of the Communist Party with democratic political regimes came about as the focus of environmentalism shifted from "nature protection" to "environmental protection." In conclusion, I assess and compare the role of environmentalism under the new regimes and how two forms of environmentalism, "cosmopolitan environmentalism" and "ethno-ecologism" emerged indicating both an increased capacity for strengthening democracy and a latent capacity for the exploitation of nationalistic and cultural themes that potentially threaten democracy. Certain tensions regarding environmental politics, professionalization, and public protest that strengthen and challenge democracy are discussed.


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