Environmental sociology was born to study the interaction of human societies with the material world, yet the concept of matter has been neglected. Possibly for this reason, the material (or ontological) ‘turn’ taking place in social theory hasinvolved the discipline more marginally than other fields. The relevance of new materialist positions to environmental sociology is addressed. On one side, the realism/constructionism diatribe is sidestepped by an understanding of knowledge and materiality as mutually constituted and incessantly remoulded, and of agency as distributed among human and nonhuman entities, hence humble and non-dominative. On the other, the traditional idea of critique is replaced by a case for affirmative, embodied practices, arguably exemplified by emergent environmental mobilizations. At a closer look, however, new materialist standpoints result embroiled with the Western metaphysical tradition, neglecting how today non-dualist modalities may end up supporting, rather than opposing, exploitative orientations like those emergent in biotech and climate policy. Environmental sociology should address the new theoretical tide with care, working on and with non-dualist standpoints without forgetting the unbridgeable gap between matter and its ontologies. To this purpose the theoretical heritage of the discipline, and namely Adorno’s negative dialectics, may turn out valuable.

Catching up with things? Environmental sociology and the material turn in social theory

PELLIZZONI, LUIGI
2016

Abstract

Environmental sociology was born to study the interaction of human societies with the material world, yet the concept of matter has been neglected. Possibly for this reason, the material (or ontological) ‘turn’ taking place in social theory hasinvolved the discipline more marginally than other fields. The relevance of new materialist positions to environmental sociology is addressed. On one side, the realism/constructionism diatribe is sidestepped by an understanding of knowledge and materiality as mutually constituted and incessantly remoulded, and of agency as distributed among human and nonhuman entities, hence humble and non-dominative. On the other, the traditional idea of critique is replaced by a case for affirmative, embodied practices, arguably exemplified by emergent environmental mobilizations. At a closer look, however, new materialist standpoints result embroiled with the Western metaphysical tradition, neglecting how today non-dualist modalities may end up supporting, rather than opposing, exploitative orientations like those emergent in biotech and climate policy. Environmental sociology should address the new theoretical tide with care, working on and with non-dualist standpoints without forgetting the unbridgeable gap between matter and its ontologies. To this purpose the theoretical heritage of the discipline, and namely Adorno’s negative dialectics, may turn out valuable.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23251042.2016.1190490
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11368/2888714
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