Putting Sustainability into Practice

Putting Sustainability into Practice

Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption

Edited by Emily H. Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi Krogman

Putting Sustainability into Practice offers a robust and interdisciplinary understanding of contemporary consumption routines that challenges conventional approaches to social change premised on behavioral economics and social psychology. Empirical research is featured from eight different countries, using both qualitative and quantitative data to support its thesis.

Chapter 2: Contextualizing social practices: insights into social change

Debbie Kasper

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, environmental sociology, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


In response to conclusions that a continuation of ‘business as usual’ will lead to pervasive negative socio-ecological impacts, growing numbers of researchers are calling for proactive transitions in economic, political, and energy systems. Missing, however, is a clear sense of how to effect such changes. Among the obstacles to more intentional societal change are a dominant paradigm that prioritizes individual behavior and the role of consumerism in addressing urgent environmental problems, and the absence of a general theory of how social life, and thus social change, works. Social practice theories have emerged as an antidote to the first problem, but without an organizing theory of social practice they have not been well integrated into socio-ecological research and policy. Here, I discuss figurational theory and its value as a general social theory at a high level of synthesis. Contextualizing social practice theories within this larger theoretical framework, I argue, renders them more practice-able and generates new possibilities for social practice research to inform transition efforts.

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