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 6: Postconstructivist Political Ecologies

Arturo Escobar


Arturo Escobar Three generations of political ecology Political ecology (PE) is an interdisciplinary field that has been under development for several decades; the process of constructing it has been marked by rich epistemological, paradigmatic and political debates since its inception. It is broadly recognized that it emerged in the 1970s out of the interweaving of several ecologically oriented frameworks and political economy. By bringing these two fields together, PE aimed to work through their respective deficiencies, namely, human and cultural ecology’s lack of attention to power and political economy’s undeveloped conceptualization of nature. Too mired still in structural and dualist ways of thinking, this ‘first generation political ecology’ (Biersack, 2006) has given way over the past decade to what could be termed a ‘second-generation’ political ecology; variously informed by those theoretical trends marked as ‘post-’ since the 1980s (poststructuralism, postmarxism, postcolonialism), the political ecology of the last 15 years has been a vibrant inter- and transdisciplinary space of inquiry drawing on many disciplines (geography, anthropology, ecology, ecological economics, environmental history, historical ecology, development studies, science and technology studies) and bodies of theory (liberal theory, Marxism, poststructuralism, feminist theory, phenomenology, postcolonial theory, complexity and natural science approaches such as landscape ecology and conservation biology). What distinguishes this second-generation PE from its predecessor is its engagement with the epistemological debates fostered by the theoretical positions known as constructivism and anti-essentialism. Although very provisionally, given the newness of the trends in question, it could be said that a third-generation PE has been in...

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