The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

This thoroughly revised Handbook provides an assessment of the scope and content of environmental sociology, and sets out the intellectual and practical challenges posed by the urgent need for policy and action to address accelerating environmental change.
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Chapter 8: The Transition Out of Carbon Dependence: The Crises of Environment and Markets

Michael R. Redclift


Michael R. Redclift Introduction The environment poses real problems for the social sciences, especially the growing sense of urgency surrounding climate change (Rayner and Malone, 1998; Cock and Hopwood, 1996; Dyson, 2005; Brunnengräber, 2007; Lever-Tracy, 2008, Altvater, 2007). This is partly because some disciplines, among them sociology, have longstanding difficulties with policy agendas (with which they often coevolved historically, and to which they usually offered a critique). In the case of sociology the difficulties were also compounded by the question of naturalism, and the unwillingness to accept what have often seemed facile or insufficient ‘biological’ explanations of human behaviour (Benton 1994). Other disciplines, notably human geography, have given much more attention to the environmental terrain including climate change, and located it firmly within their domain of interest, in this case the growing field of political ecology (Bryant and Bailey, 1997; Keil et al., 1998; Biersack and Greenberg, 2006). The way in which the social sciences respond to the climate change agenda is likely to assume more importance in a world where, in principle at least, ways out of carbon dependence and alternatives need to be found. In particular it means revisiting what ‘we know’, and subjecting environmental knowledges to new and unfamiliar investigations. It means investigating future alternatives to the ‘hydrocarbon societies’ (Norgaard, 1994) with which we are most familiar, rather as Max Weber investigated unfamiliar ‘whole societies’ in Antiquity (Norgaard, 1988; Weber, 1991). In many ways, it can be argued, this quest for an analysis of transitions out...

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