Three propositions toward a cultural sociology of climate change

Authored by: Zeke Baker

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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Although existing approaches to the climate-change issue in sociology frequently invoke “culture” as a factor in beliefs about and policy action regarding global warming, there exists no organized cultural sociology of climate and climate change. This chapter addresses the complex relationship between climate and culture first by reviewing existing literature in the social sciences in order to organize and isolate issues capable of being addressed within cultural sociology. The chapter then advances three propositions toward a cultural sociology of climate, using historical and contemporary examples to illustrate and support each one. First, climate is not reducible to a physical system, meaning that relationships between climate and society rest on context-specific interpretive practices. Second, to understand contemporary climate change, we must historicize “climate” and “culture” as embattled categories tied especially to dynamics of symbolic power. Third, modern climate science and policies remain culturally embedded, and the cultural authority regarding climate futures is a critical site of contemporary cultural politics.

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