A Marcusian utopia? : the redefinition of need in Green intentional communities

  • Rebecca Emily Wallbridge

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The challenge of climate change necessitates searching for solutions beyond those offered by natural science and economics. It requires critically examining the whole way of life and associated values and needs that drive the practices responsible for the damage to our planet's ecosystem. This research argues that there lies within the Critical Theory of Marcuse and ecological social theory such a challenge to dominant social practices, patterns of consumption, and needs. Thus, this thesis sets out the contribution that Marcuse makes to existing ecological theory through an examination his conceptualisation of nature and his theory of need, and, in so doing, explores the contribution a Marcusian approach can make to the empirical study of attempts to create more sustainable ways of life. A Marcusian theoretical framework is applied to an exploration of the relationships between social institutions and the needs and desires which issue from, or are accommodated by them by, adopting an ethnographic methodological approach to explore how individuals' understand and satisfy their needs and desires within the alternative social contexts constituted by green intentional communities; the aim being to evaluate the extent to which living in such communities allows for the redefinition of needs in a greener, more sustainable direction. The argument is made that intentional communities constitute \ spaces of and for difference - that the social, material and ideological institutions of communities enable the interpretation and satisfaction of needs and desires in ecologically sensitive ways. Thus, in choosing to live in intentional communities, individuals place themselves in circumstances which demand the restructuring of the satisfaction of their needs and desires, and in doing so, create a situation in which they can live and be differently.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMaggie Studholme (Supervisor) & Ruth A Levitas (Supervisor)

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