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 1: The Maturation and Diversification of Environmental Sociology: From Constructivism and Realism to Agnosticism and Pragmatism

Riley E. Dunlap


1 Riley E. Dunlap Introduction Environmental sociology has changed enormously since the first edition of this handbook was published. Both its theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches reflect increased sophistication and diversity, in part stemming from changes in its subject matter. Environmental problems are now regarded as more complex, intractable, globalized and threatening, partly due to increased knowledge and awareness, and partly as a result of objective changes in biophysical conditions. The increased salience of environmental problems combined with advances in the field have enabled environmental sociology to gain in legitimacy, exemplified by more publications in top-tier journals and growing job opportunities, and to continue its international diffusion. A result of all this is that even as environmental sociology is becoming a mature and well-institutionalized field, it is in a period of intellectual ferment, the home to major debates over foci, theory and methods that reflect in part international variation in intellectual approaches. Nonetheless, in this period of flux, environmental sociology is still dealing with the same fundamental issues it faced when established as the study of societal–environmental relations or interactions (Catton and Dunlap, 1978; Dunlap and Catton, 1979a). From the outset, environmental sociology has grappled not only with how to approach such interactions, but with the nature of ‘society’ and ‘environment’ as well. Indeed, major developments in the field over the past three decades are linked to changing approaches to all three phenomena. I contend that societal–environmental interactions remain the most challenging issue, and divergent approaches to them...

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