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Dictionary of Ethical Politics

The Dictionary of Ethical Politics sets out to be a lexicon of new political thought centered on the relationship between ethics and politics. Written through the collaboration of leading writers, academics, journalists and activists, the dictionary is meant as a popular but serious examination of central political concepts in the light of current environmental, social and geopolitical realities.

The dictionary is being developed in the Wikipedia model using contributors who have been specifically invited to participate. At the moment, we are still working on the identification and definition of the dictionary entries.

Who We Are

The Dictionary of Ethical Politics was created through the partnership of Resurgence and openDemocracy.

These progressive publications, dedicated to the evolution of politics, ecology, and social justice, have come together with the financial support of the Tedworth Trust to create, edit and publish this multimedia volume. To learn more about these groups and our project staff please visit our "About Us" page.

Project Philosophy

Radical progressive politics have historical and cultural roots that have underplayed both the importance of the environment and the role of personal transformation in social action.

Liberal individualism, in JS Mill, for example, sees the rational organization of society around utility as the means to a better world.

Other belief systems contend that limits to material conditions are socially-made and not the result of finite ecological systems or a balance of ecological forces. This is usually accompanied by a companion belief in progress, or human ingenuity (i.e. technology) as the solution to all our problems.

Progress typically places the focus on the potential of humanity to transform nature, instead of working with nature in an interconnected and interdependent system. Industrial progress, often synonymous with civilization, has been applauded while its negative and often toxic externalities like pollution, overpopulation, and economic disparity are either hidden or subsidized, often both.

Now we are seeing that we live under real and tangible environmental constraints, that much of the progress that progressive politics took for granted was made at the expense of the environment in the form of unsustainable energy and resource use. This requires the radical progressive tradition to re-assess many of its views.

At the forefront of this re-think of progressive politics is the renewed debate over the role of personal transformation and spirituality as a vehicle for creating social and political change. Progressive writers, environmentalists, and activists from across the spectrum are calling for a spiritual solution to our global crises.

The radical progressive tradition has been historically suspicious of calls to personal transformation as a political strategy. This distrust of organized religion, fundamentalisms and new age palliatives comes from a suspicion that religion is a tool of the powerful to softly dominate the weak. Sadly, this has had the negative consequence of fostering cynicism towards anything that might connect political action with the whole-hearted celebration of the human spirit.

A non-spiritual world-view that sees man-made social forces, like government regulation or religious fundamentalism, as the main impediments to a better world naturally focuses political attention on law, human rights, democratic politics, or corporate behavior. If society is the problem, this philosophy goes, then society itself ought to be transformed to fix it.

Yet, it now must be recognized that freedom and equality alone will not deliver a sustainable world, and a violent and unfeeling world will not find peace. An unsustainable world is inherently unjust---certainly to future generations, and almost surely to current ones too.

A better, fairer world is no longer a world that provides equality in material conditions or political influence: it is a world that challenges materialism as the supreme value or goal. It is a world where each individual’s management and resolution of conflict, implicit in spiritual growth, becomes an integral part of our politics. In other words, the positions that spiritual ecologists have been exploring for must now be brought together with the politics of progress to build a just world.

How to Get Involved

The initial term identification and definition process will take place online in this Wiki. Initially, all definitions will come through the Ethical Dictionary editorial team. Please email hilary.aked@opendemocracy.net if you wish to contribute. As the project develops we will be opening up the process to volunteer contributors.