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 4: Ecological Modernization as a Social Theory of Environmental Reform

Arthur P.J. Mol


Arthur P.J. Mol Understanding environmental reform During the late 1960s and especially the 1970s several social sciences witnessed the emergence of relatively small environmental subdisciplines: within sociology, political sciences, economics, and later also within anthropology and law. Strongly triggered by social developments in Western industrialized societies, social scientists started to reflect on a new category of phenomena: the changing relations between nature and society and the reflection of modern society on these. In retrospect, the framing of environmental questions within sociology and political sciences during the 1970s was of a particular nature. The emphasis was primarily on the fundamental causes of environmental crises in Western industrialized society and the failure of modern institutions to deal adequately with these. Environmental protests and movements, state failures, the capitalist roots of the environmental crisis, and environmental attitudes and (mis)behaviour were the typical subjects of environmental sociology and political science studies in the 1970s. Many of these studies were strongly related to neo-Marxist interpretation schemes, and even today neo-Marxism is a powerful and far from marginal explanatory theory in environmental social science research.1 Strongly driven by empirical and ideological developments in the European environmental movement, by the practices and institutional developments in some ‘environmental frontrunner states’, and by developments in private companies, some European social scientists began reorienting their focus from explaining ongoing environmental devastation towards understanding processes of environmental reform. Later, and sometimes less strongly, this new environmental social science agenda was followed by US and other non-European scholars and policy analysts....

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