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Society and Nature: Changing Our Environment, Changing Ourselves

ISBN: 978-0-7456-2795-3
304 pages
February 2004, Polity
Society and Nature: Changing Our Environment, Changing Ourselves (0745627951) cover image
Society and Nature is a lively and highly accessible introduction to the sociology of the environment. The book provides a comprehensive guide to contemporary issues and current debates – including society, nature and the enlightenment, industry and environmental transformation, commodification, consumption, the network society and human identity, human biology, citizenship and new social movements.

Combining insights from contemporary sociology, politics, developmental biology and psychology, Peter Dickens suggests that environmental degradation is largely due to humanity’s narcissistic demand that the environment be made into a commodity to be consumed. Meanwhile, human biology is also being modified: people’s bodies are being rebuilt in ways that reflect their class positions. People and their surroundings have always adapted according to the demands of society. But modern capitalist society is changing the environment and its people in profound, potentially catastrophic, ways, shaping both human and non-human nature in its own image.

The book contains a number of student features to interest and guide the reader as well as an attractive and clear layout. It will be particularly useful for students and teachers of sociology, human ecology, environmental studies and social theory.

Dickens' insight won his work the American Sociological Association's Outstanding Publication Award 2006, in the Environment and Technology section.

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Acknowledgements.

This Book and How to Use It.

Introduction. Society, Nature and Enlightenment.

Changing Nature, Changing Ourselves.

The Age of Enlightenment.

Enlightenment’s Shadow.

The Age of Enlightenment and This Book.

References and Further Reading.

1. Introducing Key Themes:.

Overview.

Contributions from Evolutionary Thought.

The Decline of Community?.

Industry and Production.

A Risk Society?.

Summary.

References and Further Reading.

2. Industry and Environmental Transformation:.

Overview.

Industry and Humanity’s Metabolism with Nature.

Social Evolution, Biological Evolution and Marx.

Risk and the Metabolic Rift.

Community: a New Basis for Industrial Production.

Summary.

References and Further Reading.

3. Commodifying the Environment:.

Overview.

Commodification and Industry.

Commodification and Community.

Commodifying Evolution?.

Commodification and ‘Manufactured Risk’.

Summary.

4. Consumption, The Environment and Human Identity:.

Overview.

Society and Nature: Over-Consumption as the Problem?.

Consumption and the Making of Community.

‘The Consumer Society’: the Final Stage of Social Evolution?.

Industry and Consumption.

The Risk Society: Poverty and Industry as the Issue.

Summary.

References and Further Reading.

5. Industrial Change, the Network Society and Human Identity:.

Overview.

An Evolved Human Nature?.

Industrial Development, the Network Society and Changes to Human Nature.

The Network Society and Virtual Community.

Psychic Structure, Network Society and Evolution.

Postfordism, the Network Society and Risk.

Summary.

References and Further Reading.

6. Modifying Human Biology:.

Overview.

Industrialising Birth, Improving Humans?.

Improving on Evolution: Genes and the Good Life.

Community and Human Development.

Human Transformation and The Risk Society.

Summary.

References and Further Reading.

7. Society, Nature and Citizenship:.

Overview.

Society, Politics and Rights.

The Evolution of Rights?.

Industry and Citizenship.

Citizenship as Community.

Citizenship as Risk.

Summary.

References and Further Reading.

8. Society, Nature and the New Social Movements:.

Overview.

The New Social Movements.

Social Evolution and Risk.

New Social Movements: Revealing and Making Community.

Human Evolution and the Recovery of Human Nature.

Summary.

References and Further Reading.

Glossary of Terms.

Index

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Peter Dickens is Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge and Fellow and Director of Studies in Social and Political Sciences, Fitzwilliam College. He is also visiting Professor of Sociology, University of Essex.
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  • Original and innovative guide to the sociology of the environment.
  • Covers all the key issues and debates including: society, nature and the enlightenment; industry and environmental transformation; commodification; consumption; the network society and human identity; human biology; citizenship; and new social movements.
  • Argues that environmental degradation is largely due to humanity’s narcissistic demand that the environment be made into a commodity to be consumed.
  • Contains a number of useful student features: summary boxes, links to relevant websites and a comprehensive guide to further reading.

  • The author's insight won this book the American Sociological Association's Outstanding Publication Award 2006, in the Environment and Technology section.

See More
“Offers a multi-disciplinary, well-rounded theoretical discussion of the interdependent relationship between humans and the natural world.”
Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

“Dickens presents his own original and significant analysis of relationships between social and biological dynamics and identities. I recommend enthusiastically that this book be read.”
Raymond Murphy, Canadian Journal of Sociology

“Presents the author's own highly original analysis of relations between society and nature based on a Maxist and critical realist perspective. The book also provides a valuable overview and critique of much classical and contemporary sociology.”
Environment and Society

Society and Nature, by British sociologist Peter Dickens, offers a rare blend of scholarship. Its narrative is both authoritative, yet accessible. Its content is broad and comprehensive in scope, while managing to still provide an important contribution to the field of enviromental sociology (among others). It is both a textbook, for undergraduates and individuals new to the field, and a rigorous work of scholarship in its own right. In bringing this together, Dickens is to be commended for his ability to weave in and out of a diverse array of literatures - from enviromental sociology, to the sociology of technology, social theory, evolutionary sociology, molecular and developmental biology and cognitive psychology. In all, Society and Nature is an important contribution to the field of enviromental sociology. Dickens' shows us, in rather dramatic fashion, just how intertwined the social and natural realms are.”
Organisation and Enviroment

“This is a valuable and scholarly book, packed with ideas for further reading. It contains a great deal of knowledge and scholarly understanding, rendered down into bite-sized chunks. It would make an excellent student text ... yet will inform many research level debates.”
Bill Adams, Area


“A useful addition to the bookshelves of anyone who has even a passing interest in the new governance of the environment, not just students.”
British Journal of Sociology

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