The Political Economy of Nature: Environmental Debates and the Social Sciences

The Political Economy of Nature: Environmental Debates and the Social Sciences

The Political Economy of Nature: Environmental Debates and the Social Sciences

The Political Economy of Nature: Environmental Debates and the Social Sciences

Synopsis

The Political Economy of Nature draws extensively on current insights from sociology, ecology, economics, and earth science. Robert Boardman pools these diverse resources to argue that the investigation of environmental issues raises complex theoretical questions, which can only be answered through more sustained links between the natural and social sciences. With global issues becoming an increasingly vital part of environmental debate, Boradman shows how understanding of ecological problems can be increased in both International Relations and International Political Economy.

Excerpt

Discourses on the relations between societies and their natural environments have been a persisting feature of the politics of modernity. Writers have routinely brought in such topics in the course of elaborating general social and political theories. Engels pondered the significance of the divorce of capitalist societies from nature. The forms taken by human polities, Montesquieu thought earlier, and the cultural traits of individuals in them, are due to differences in the climatic conditions of societies. As more recognizably ‘environmental’ questions began to structure debates, focal points proliferated. In the late nineteenth century they touched on national parks, the millinery trade and problems of wild birds as hazards to agriculture. The global balance of population and natural resources loomed menacingly in the 1940s and again in the 1970s. Sick buildings in the 1990s, supersonic aircraft for a time in the 1960s, migratory species, the capacities of Southern economies to finance environmental reform, agrochemical use by golf courses and suburban households, changing weather patterns: there has been no shortage of grist for the environmentalist issue-mill.

Theory, politics and voice

The contention that these kinds of questions are puzzles in larger theoretical enterprises has also lasted, in part because of the unavoidably political character of environmental problems and the proliferation of contexts in which these have been situated. Global environmental discourses are theoretically relevant, first, because they contain cognitive maps that can be used to investigate social and ecological worlds, and, second, because special tools are often required to understand them and their associated practices.

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