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The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology

The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology

Edited by Frank Boons and Jennifer Howard-Grenville

Most work on industrial ecology continues to emphasize its roots in engineering and the technological sciences. This book differs in that it explores the social context of industrial ecology and presents empirical work addressing how cognitive, cultural, political and structural mechanisms condition the emergence and operation of industrial ecology. The empirical chapters are written from various social science perspectives and the editors have also invited reflective commentaries by authors with cross-disciplinary experiences.

Chapter 3: Don’t Fence Me In…

Henrikke Baumann

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, management and sustainability, organisational behaviour, environment, corporate social responsibility, environmental management, environmental sociology


3. Don’t fence me in . . . Henrikke Baumann As I set out to write this chapter, I realize that after more than 15 years in what many call disciplinary no-man’s land, a certain weariness of interdisciplinary politics has set in. I’ve come to a point where I just want to get on with my work, whatever its disciplinary label. And at that point being asked to write a personal essay on interdisciplinary experiences, I argued with myself: what justification do I need to take time off from that work? Maybe the fact that I managed to get tenured on merits of interdisciplinarity counts for something?! This book is about putting the ‘social’ into industrial ecology – through dialogues between disciplines. Yes, dialogue would have been nice, but that rarely happened during those 15 years – ‘languages’ were so different. There was more confusion and tension, and occasionally even open conflict. In my mind, dialogue entails a civil and constructive exchange, even when the participants are very different, as the researchers within industrial ecology1 are. Roughly speaking, there are the engineers (with their long-time allies the natural scientists) and there are the social scientists. And although both engineering and social scientists come in many different kinds and have their own internal debates, it is in the exchange between these two main groups where I’ve observed most misunderstandings. Over the years I’ve noticed that when engineers initiate interdisciplinary work, it often resembles attempts at social engineering, while when social scientists put forward their work, it...

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