Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption
Edited by Emily H. Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi Krogman
Chapter 2: Contextualizing social practices: insights into social change
In response to conclusions that a continuation of ‘business as usual’ will lead to pervasive negative socio-ecological impacts, growing numbers of researchers are calling for proactive transitions in economic, political, and energy systems. Missing, however, is a clear sense of how to effect such changes. Among the obstacles to more intentional societal change are a dominant paradigm that prioritizes individual behavior and the role of consumerism in addressing urgent environmental problems, and the absence of a general theory of how social life, and thus social change, works. Social practice theories have emerged as an antidote to the first problem, but without an organizing theory of social practice they have not been well integrated into socio-ecological research and policy. Here, I discuss figurational theory and its value as a general social theory at a high level of synthesis. Contextualizing social practice theories within this larger theoretical framework, I argue, renders them more practice-able and generates new possibilities for social practice research to inform transition efforts.
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