Abstract Stirred by the contradiction between the mainstreamed castigation of merely symbolic eco-politics and the firm resolve of advanced consumer democracies to defend the core principles of democratic consumer capitalism, this contribution undertakes a meta-critique of the paradigm of symbolic politics. A tentative typology of different varieties of symbolic politics maps the terrain for a detailed analysis of symbolic politics in the popular understanding. A comprehensive cultural shift conceptualised as the post-ecologist turn is held responsible not only for a fundamental transformation of the ways in which late-modern societies frame and process their environmental problems, but also for the exhaustion of authentic eco-politics which, by implication, renders the critique of merely symbolic politics questionable. The concept of simulative politics is suggested as a more appropriate conceptualisation of late-modern eco-politics. Practices of simulative politics are presented as a key strategy which help late-modern societies to sustain what is known to be unsustainable.