The American Sociologist

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 59–70 | Cite as

Sustainability and sociology

  • Eve Passerini


Sociologists have been slow to address directly the questions raised by the issue of sustainability, despite the prominence of the idea in other disciplines and policy fields. This article argues that sociologists are “missing the boat” by ignoring the questions that sustainability raises. In addition, it is suggested that sociology is uniquely equipped with the theoretical and methodological background to contribute scientifically accurate understandings of this phenomenon to a world much in need of such guidance. The article concludes that addressing questions of sustainability may nudge sociology into new and fruitful directions of inquiry.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Axelrod, Robert. 1984. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  3. Bowden, Gary. 1994. Introduction. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 31(3):24l.Google Scholar
  4. Carley, Michael, and Ian Christie. 1993. Managing Sustainable Development. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  5. Catton, William. 1983. “Need For A New Paradigm.” Sociological Perspectives 26(1):3–15.Google Scholar
  6. Catton, William, and Riley Dunlap. 1980. “A New Ecological Paradigm for Post-Exuberant Sociology.” American Behavioral Scientist 24(1): 15–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clarke, Lee, and James Short. 1993. “Social Organization and Risk: Some Current Controversies.” Annual Review of Sociology 19:375–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives. 1993. International Environment: Briefing Book on Major Selected Issues. Prepared by the Congressional Research Service Library of Congress. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  9. Darlington, JoAnne, and Dennis Mileti. 1994. Societal Response to Risk. Paper presented at the Midwest Sociological Society, St. Louis, MO.Google Scholar
  10. Dixon, John A., and Louise A. Fallon. 1989. “The Concept of Sustainability: Origins, Extensions, and Usefulness for Policy.” Society and Natural Resources. 2:73–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dovers, Stephen R. 1993. “Contradictions in Sustainability.” Environmental Conservation 20(3):217–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Escobar, Arturo. 1995. Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  14. Glance, Natalie, and Bernardo Huberman. 1993. “The Outbreak of Cooperation.” Journal of Mathematical Sociology 17(4):281–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Glance, Natalie, and Bernardo Huberman. 1994. “The Dynamics of Social Dilemmas.” Scientific American 271(3):76–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goodland, Robert. 1995. “The Concept of Environmental Sustainability.” Annual Review of Ecological Systems 26:1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gould, Kenneth. 1997. Nature Tourism and Sustainability: Local Exchange and Extralocal Use in a Transnational Economy. Paper presented at the 1997 American Sociological Association meeting, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar
  18. Gouldner, A.L. 1970. The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  19. Hannigan, John. 1995. Environmental Sociology: A Social Constructionist Perspective. London: Routledge Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hajer, Maarten, A. 1996. “Ecological Modernization as Cultural Politics.” Pp. 246–268 in Risk, Environment, and Modernity, edited by Scott Lash, Bronislaw Szerszynski and Brian Wynne. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  21. Hessing, Melody. 1995. “The Sociology of Sustainability: Feminist Economic Approaches to Survival.” In Environmental Sociology: Theory and Practice, edited by Michael Mehta and Eric Ouellet, pp. 231–254. Ontario: Captus Press.Google Scholar
  22. Horowitz, Irving Louis. 1993. The Decomposition of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Johnson, Huey D. 1995. Green Plans: Greenprints for Sustainability. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lemert, Charles. 1995. Sociology after the Crisis. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  25. Lichbach, Mark. 1994. “Rethinking Rationality and Rebellion.” Rationality and Society 6({sbl}):8–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1994. “The State of American Sociology.” Sociological Forum 9:199–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Luten, Daniel. 1986. Progress Against Growth: Daniel Luten on the American Landscape. Ed. Thomas Vale. New York: Gifford Press.Google Scholar
  28. Merchant, Carolyn. 1992. Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Mileti, Dennis, and Colleen Fitzpatrick. 1993. The Great Earthquake Experiment: Risk Communication and Public Action. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  30. Murphy, Raymond. 1994. Rationality and Nature: A Sociological Inquiry into a Changing Relationship. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  31. Perrow, Charles. 1984. Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Systems. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  32. Redclift, Michael. 1987. Sustainable Development: Exploring the Contradictions. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  33. Redcliff, Michael, and Graham Woodgate (Ed). 1997. The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology. Northhampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  34. Scheppele, Kim Lane. 1991. “Law Without Accident.” In Social Theory for a Changing World, eds. Pierre Bourdieu and James Coleman, pp. 267–293. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  35. Schnaiberg, Allan, and Kenneth Alan Gould. 1994. Environment and Society: The Enduring Conflict. New York: St. Martin's Press.Google Scholar
  36. Short, James, F. 1984. “The Social Fabric at Risk: Toward the Social Transformation of Risk Analysis.” American Sociological Review 49:711–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sorokin, Pitirim. 1937-1941. Social and Cultural Dynamics. 4 Vols. New York: American Book.Google Scholar
  38. Spaargaren, Gert and Arthur P.J. Mol. 1992. “Sociology, Environment, and Modernity: Ecological Modernization as a Theory of Social Change“ Society and Natural Resources 5:323–344.Google Scholar
  39. Spengler, Oswald. 1962 [1926, 1928]. The Decline of the West. New York: Alfred P. Knopf, Inc.Google Scholar
  40. Stinchcombe, Arthur. 1994. “Disintegrated Diciplines and the Future of Sociology.” Sociological Forum 9:279–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Toynbee, Arnold. 1947 and 1957. A Study of History. Vols. 1–6 published 1946, vols. 7–10 published 1957. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Turner, Stephen Park, and Jonathan H. Turner. The Impossible Science: An Institutional Analysis of American Sociology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  43. Vallancourt, Jean-Guy. 1995. “Sustainable Development: A Sociologist's View of the Definition, Origins and Implications of the Concept.” In Environmental Sociology: Theory and Practice, edited by Michael Mehta and Eric Ouellet, pp. 219–230. Ontario: Captus Press.Google Scholar
  44. Vaughan, Diane. 1996. The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  45. Weinberg, Adam, Allan Schnaiberg, and David Pellow. 1996. “Sustainable Development as a Sociologically Defensible Concept: From Foxes and Rovers to Citizen-Workers “ In Advances in Human Ecology, vol. 5, Edited by Lee Freese. Westport, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  46. World Commission on Environment and Development IWCED]. 1987. Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eve Passerini
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulder

Personalised recommendations