The Social Pillar of Sustainable Development: A Literature Review and Framework for Policy Analysis

By Murphy, Kevin | Sustainability : Science, Practice, & Policy, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

The Social Pillar of Sustainable Development: A Literature Review and Framework for Policy Analysis


Murphy, Kevin, Sustainability : Science, Practice, & Policy


Introduction

While the concept of sustainable development (SD) generally refers to achieving a balance among the environmental, economic, and social pillars of sustainability, the meaning and associated objectives of the social pillar remain vague (Dempsey et al. 2011; Casula Vifell & Soneryd, 2012). Indeed, it has been described as the most conceptually elusive pillar in SD discourse (Thin, 2002). Moreover, the social dimensions of sustainability have not received the same treatment as the other two pillars (Cuthill, 2009; Vavik & Keitsch, 2010) and there are various interpretations regarding what issues should be addressed (Dixon & Colantonio, 2008). The selection of social measures in sustainable development indicator sets (SDIs) is often a function of power rather than policy coherence, as influential groups are more likely to have their concerns included (Littig & Griessler, 2005). These indicators reflect different sociocultural priorities (Omann & Spangenberg, 2002) and as such are often picked for political rather than scientific reasons (Fahey, 1995). For example, preferences for neoliberalism or the European social model will result in different social objectives (Colantonio, 2007).

These ambiguities suggest that a greater understanding of the social pillar of SD is desirable. The literature also indicates that it is necessary to develop greater linkage between the social and environmental pillars (Dobson, 2003b; Littig & Griessler, 2005; Gough et al. 2008). This article contributes to establishing such connections by presenting a conceptual framework for understanding the social pillar and outlining its environmental implications. A review of eight bodies of literature related to SD suggests four pre-eminent policy concepts (Figure 1).

[Image omitted: see PDF]

Figure 1 Four Pre-eminent Concepts of the Social Pillar.

While the literature highlights the relatively limited treatment afforded to the social pillar, some work has been done. In particular, SDIs and the social sustainability literature present us with policy concepts and objectives specifically identified as "social" and represent a significant contribution to how the social pillar is conceived. However, I argue that establishing clearer links with the environmental pillar will further enhance this concept, an argument rooted in an understanding of SD as a concept requiring interpillar linkages. In this respect, the links between the social and environmental pillars are particularly underdeveloped. It is therefore useful to expand the parameters of the social pillar by connecting it empirically to environmental imperatives. Furthermore, while existing approaches tend to present the social pillar in terms of national welfare objectives for current generations, it is useful to broaden the understanding of the social to incorporate international and intergenerational dimensions. In so doing, a policy framework emerges that provides the basis for an alternative set of social indicators to those specified in international SDIs or implied in the social sustainability literature. This approach constitutes a set of policy objectives that have clear social and environmental dimensions. The framework may be employed to conduct an empirical analysis of how different states and organizations understand the social pillar and to what extent they develop social/environmental links.

This article is divided into two parts. The first part describes the origins of the proposed framework, explaining the identification of eight key types of SD-related literature that discuss social concepts and policy objectives (Table 1). I then explore how debates to date have presented "the social" in SD. Drawing on key United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) SD policy documents and environmental policy integration (EPI) literature, the argument then moves to a justification for linking social and environmental imperatives.

The second part of this article presents the four policy concepts at the heart of the framework, which are linked to thirteen policy objectives that address social and environmental concerns simultaneously. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Social Pillar of Sustainable Development: A Literature Review and Framework for Policy Analysis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.