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Environmental Values

How to Get Out of the Multiple Crisis? Contours of a Critical Theory of Social-Ecological Transformation

Ulrich Brand

Environmental Values 25 (2016): 503-525. doi: 10.3197/096327116X14703858759017

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The concept of transformation has become a buzzword within the last few years. This has to do, first, with the ever broader recognition of the profound character of the environmental crisis, secondly, with increasingly obvious limits to existing forms of (global) environmental governance, thirdly, with the emergence of other dimensions of the crisis since 2008 and, fourthly, with intensified debates about required profound social change, especially of societal nature relations. However, the term transformation itself is contested. It largely depends on theoretical assumptions as well as the plausibility and applicability of the arguments which are made. In this paper, a historical-materialist approach to social-ecological transformation is outlined by referring to a theoretically sophisticated understanding of ‘subject(s)’ of transformation as well as the ‘object(s)’ of what is to be transformed. Theoretical concepts like the capitalist mode of production, regulation and hegemony, a critical understanding of the state and governance as well as the term societal nature relations are key. Such a perspective contributes to a more sophisticated understanding of the obstacles and requirements of real-world transformation. Finally, the argument has implications for visions and strategies, i.e., an emancipatory and democratic shaping of social relations and societal nature relations.


Transformation, historical materialism, capitalist mode of production, regulation, hegemony, critical state and governance theory, political ecology, societal nature relations

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Paradigm Dressed as Epoch: The Ideology of the Anthropocene.Jeremy Baskin

Décroissance: A Project for a Radical Transformation of Society.Barbara Muraca

Rejecting Eco-Authoritarianism, Again. Dan Coby Shahar

Editorial: Green Economy, Red Herring. Clive L. Spash

The Naturalisation of Growth: Marx, the Regulation Approach and Bourdieu.Max Koch

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Questioning Socio-Ecological Transformations. Alex Loftus

Participation(s) in Transnational Environmental Governance: Green Values Versus Instrumental Use. Ayşem Mert

Should Naturalists Believe in the Anthropocene?. Morgan C. Tait

The Spiralling Economy: Connecting Marxian Theory with Ecological Economics. Crelis Rammelt

The Social Specificity of Societal Nature Relations in a Flexible Capitalist Society. Dennis Eversberg

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