Table of Contents

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology

Elgar original reference

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology is a major interdisciplinary reference work on the developing field of environmental sociology. It consists of over 30 specially commissioned essays by leading scholars from around the world. These original essays examine a wide range of environmental issues in the developed and developing world as well as formerly centrally planned countries to present a truly international perspective. Together they analyse theory and concepts, philosophical and empirical issues as well as offering practical policy advice.

Chapter 2: Social institutions and environmental change

Frederick H. Buttel

Subjects: environment, environmental geography, environmental sociology, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


Frederick H. Buttel INTRODUCTION Many environmental sociologists think of their scholarly speciality as being the study of social institutions and environmental change. But while the analysis of social institutions and environmental change could in some sense be said to encompass the whole of environmental sociology, the purpose of this chapter will be to examine institutional aspects of environmental change in a more specific and focused way. Our emphasis here will be on some of the major issues, particularly within North American environmental sociology, concerning the role of political-economic and sociocultural institutions in shaping environmental degradation and change. The notion of ‘institution’ is one of the most common sociological concepts, but the notion is so commonplace in sociology, and so much a part of ordinary language, that it is often used in a vague or imprecise way. In this chapter we understand institution to refer to specific or special clusters of norms and relationships that channel behaviour so as to meet some human physical, psychological or social need such as consumption, governance and protection, primordial bonding and human meaning, human faith, and socialization and learning. Thus we may speak of economic, political, family, religious and educational institutions - the five institutional complexes of societies that are generally regarded by sociologists as being most important. While institutions and institutional processes are analytically distinct with respect to one another, and tend to exhibit some autonomy or specialization, institutions of a society are also interrelated (or, to be more precise, people through their role...

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