Making society possible: re-imagining sociology in an era of global environmental change

Monday, 11 July 2016: 17:53
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Stewart LOCKIE, James Cook University, Australia
Climate and other dimensions of global environmental change (GEC) demand a re-imagining of sociology and its role in the apprehension and motivation of social and political change. To be sure, this challenge is not unique to sociology. While existing programs of GEC research stress have stimulated multiple experiments in multidisciplinary collaboration and engagement with policy-makers, neither the scale nor breadth of this activity are commensurate with the magnitude or complexity of the task. We know all too well, as sociologists, that collaboration and communication are not sufficient, by themselves, to unsettle the vested interests, institutional path dependencies, conflicts and prejudices, taken-for-granted practices, and so on, responsible for environmental and social injustice. Power is not so easily displaced. Doing science in a manner that helps people to comprehend environmental risk, to imagine possible and desirable futures, and to identify tangible and feasible steps towards the realization of those futures requires far more innovation yet. The question (or at least one of the questions) is what this means for sociology? It is argued here that GEC, and the social movements it has stimulated, demand theoretical and methodological development from sociology on at least two fronts. First, many more processes (chemical, biological and physical) must be brought into the sociological domain, reconceiving the subject matter of sociology as all the connections among people, institutions, technologies and ecosystems that make society possible. Second, sociology must ways to contribute to the assemblage of sustainable eco-social futures in ways that are empirically robust and socially just.