An Environmental Sociology for the Anthropocene

Attention to the relationship between nature and society has been a defining feature of environmental sociology since its inception. Early research, incorporating insights from ecology, argued for the need to (1) theorize the causal connections between nature and society and (2) contextualize those connections in terms of biophysical limits resulting from resource scarcity. Over the past two decades, partly in response to new forms of existential threat such as climate change, the treatment of nature and society as distinct entities has given way to a focus on socio-natural assemblages. Using the Anthropocene as a lens to explore this emerging view, it is argued (1) that current theorizing on the socio-natural assemblage needs to pay more attention to the issues of temporality and complexity, (2) that taking these factors into account reconceptualizes the nature-society relationship as a complex, evolving socio-natural assemblage, (3) that this evolutionary process needs to be
understood in the context of cosmic evolution and the tension between entropy and the emergence of local complexity, and (4) that constraints on human development arise from the tension between these two tendencies, not from resource scarcity. An environmental sociology for the Anthropocene, one based on assumptions about the nature of causal dynamics and context consistent with our understanding of current earth system science, is proposed.
An Environmental Sociology for the Anthropocene. Bowden, G. Canadian Review of Sociology, CRS/RCS, 54.1, 48-68. 2017

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