Theory and Society

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 285–318 | Cite as

Metabolic rift or metabolic shift? dialectics, nature, and the world-historical method

Article

Abstract

In the flowering of Red-Green Thought over the past two decades, metabolic rift thinking is surely one of its most colorful varieties. The metabolic rift has captured the imagination of critical environmental scholars, becoming a shorthand for capitalism’s troubled relations in the web of life. This article pursues an entwined critique and reconstruction: of metabolic rift thinking and the possibilities for a post-Cartesian perspective on historical change, the world-ecology conversation. Far from dismissing metabolic rift thinking, my intention is to affirm its dialectical core. At stake is not merely the mode of explanation within environmental sociology. The impasse of metabolic rift thinking is suggestive of wider problems across the environmental social sciences, now confronted by a double challenge. One of course is the widespread—and reasonable—sense of urgency to evolve modes of thought appropriate to an era of deepening biospheric instability. The second is the widely recognized—but inadequately internalized—understanding that humans are part of nature.

Keywords

Environmental sociology Marx Political ecology Social theory World-ecology 

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA

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