This chapter explores “anti-consumerist” critique and practice as articulated in a range of Western nations over the last two decades. It surveys the rise of a twenty-first-century consumption politics, identifying how it has coalesced around opposition to consumerism and overconsumption, while remaining elusive in the extent to which it advocates substantive social and economic change and in the degree to which it rejects or embraces consumption as an arena of agency. The chapter explores this ambiguity through discussion of two interconnected forms of recent consumption politics—“responsible” consumer choice and “alternative” enterprise—outlining the fractured and tenuous ways in which these practices speak of contestation and of the emancipatory in relation to consumption and consumer economies. The chapter concludes by recognizing the conceptual and ideological limits of contemporary consumption politics, while insisting also that it has significantly expanded the political and ethical sensibilities through which we understand the commodity and its impact.
This chapter focuses on research among internally displaced Afghan communities who had fled to Pakistan over the protracted periods of conflict and were then unable to return to their homes and are currently living in temporary accommodation. Drawing on interviews with forced migrants this chapter aims to explore their lived experiences. In doing so, it highlights the complexities of the decision-making processes that involuntary migrants undertake. Negative public discourses of Afghan refugees notwithstanding, they are the quintessential exemplars of a global migration crisis, given that the geopolitical situation in the region over the last three decades have compelled millions to flee their homes. In order to dispel the fears and distrust toward asylum-seekers this chapter shows the importance of producing accurate data based on the worldviews of the displaced as they are formulating their decisions to flee. This in turn enables us to challenge both the artificially constructed demonizing discourses centered on asylum-seekers as well as the refugees’ own retrospective accounts, which are sometimes at odds with their actual experiences.
Simon Feeny and Mark McGillivray
This article examines the relationship between foreign aid and poverty in developing countries, with the goal of determining whether donor governments are motivated and actively set out to reduce poverty in developing countries through the provision of aid but with the impact of aid on poverty reduction. It begins with an overview of the aid and poverty record based on global data from the 1980s onward, with particular emphasis on Official Development Assistance (ODA). It then considers the analytics of aid and poverty before reviewing the relevant literature, including studies that address the impact of aid on growth and growth elasticity of poverty. The article argues that aid has had a marginally positive impact on poverty reduction in developing countries, and that poverty would be slightly higher without it.
This chapter considers the significance of Marx’s concept of alienation to his overall criticism of capitalism. At the concept’s core is the idea that while labor is potentially a fulfilling and liberating activity, under capitalism it appears only as a hostile, dominating force. Workers thus experience their own activity, natural and built environments, and fellow human beings as alien and hostile. While this idea has been deeply influential, it has also been the subject of heated controversies, in particular for its apparent dependence on an essentialist or teleological idea of human nature. While important, such controversies were often inflated by their political and intellectual context, and this chapter argues they should be considered alongside the lasting significance of alienation as an explanatory concept. Understood as such, it can still contribute a great deal to understanding and criticizing contemporary society, and provide guidance for how to transcend and replace it.
This article examines the unique contribution that analytic ethnography has made and can make to accomplishing two of the key principles of analytical sociology: developing theoretical explanations by identifying mechanisms that connect actors, action, and outcomes; bridging the micro, meso, and macro levels of analysis in those explanations. It first distinguishes ‘analytic ethnography’ from other varieties of ethnography before showing how analytic ethnography has historically developed mechanism-based explanations that go beyond the micro level. It then compares analytic ethnography to analytical sociology in order to highlight the compatibility of the two. Finally, it demonstrates how theoretical integration can be achieved first within analytic ethnography, then between analytic ethnography and analytical sociology, using research on signaling and explanations of outcomes in which signals are the mechanism.
Peter Hedström and Lars Udehn
This article locates analytic sociology in the Mertonian tradition of middle-range theory, which focuses on partial explanation of phenomena observed in different social domains through identification of core causal mechanisms. Robert K. Merton was one of the most important figures in twentieth-century sociology. He wrote on a wide range of topics, including bureaucracy, deviance, mass communications, professions, social stratification, and the sociology of science, paying attention to the consolidation and codification of existing sociological theories. His theoretical agenda has much in common with that of contemporary analytical sociology. This article begins with an overview of Merton’s middle-range theory, followed by a discussion of the micro-macro relationship. It then considers Merton’s arguments regarding social dynamics, along with his theories of self-fulfilling prophecies and the Matthew effect. It also explains different kinds of middle-range theories and concludes by stressing the importance of developing theories with sufficient causal depth.
Analyzing the Socio-Technical Transformation of Energy Systems: The Concept of “Sustainability Transitions”
Dealing with the immense societal challenges of climate change and resource depletion requires no less than a fundamental transformation of the energy system, comprising not only technological change, but also cultures of energy use and consumption, new regulations, and new types of actors operating on the energy market. A growing field of interdisciplinary social science research on “sustainability transitions” deals with the dynamics and governance of such transformative, systemic, and socio-technical change processes toward sustainability. This chapter gives an overview of concepts used to study energy system transitions, their strengths and shortcomings, as well as new advancements. The chapter also discusses a concrete example of socio-technical change in the field of renewable energy—wind power—and reflects on some of the lessons that can be drawn from this about the interdependence of energy and society and for an understanding of transitions toward a more sustainable energy system.
The theme of the Anthropocene raises fundamental questions for how world politics is now to be understood. Geopolitics can now no longer take the context of the human drama for granted; transformations are afoot that are of humanity’s own making. Nature is increasingly being produced at the largest of scales, and political thinking has to come to terms with this new condition. Globalization is, it turns out, a profoundly physical process, not just a matter of trade and cultural change networked by communication technologies. The global economy is effectively a new geomorphic force at work in the biosphere. The Anthropocene thus provides a formulation for rethinking many things and is, as such, a profoundly useful category for new thinking about global studies.
This chapter examines global energy trends, whether a global renewable energy transition is already taking place, and what steps are needed to further accelerate the global deployment of renewables. It first considers the expansion of renewable energy in light of global energy trends, noting that a global energy transition is not yet a reality but is urgently needed. It then looks at drivers and barriers for an accelerated expansion of renewable energy and proceeds by discussing how renewables are moving from the sidelines to the center stage of global energy governance. In particular, it describes the politics behind the creation of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization on renewable energy, as well as current challenges for global governance on renewable energy. The chapter shows that global renewable energy capacities have grown significantly but that global energy supply is still dominated by fossil fuels.
This chapter assesses how from early modernity to the present day, art has been a significant agent in the cultural transmission of globalization. It is a cultural legacy, however, that continues to be divided by a deep sense of ambivalence toward the question of how social imaginaries are delimited by the ubiquitous processes of global capital. The field of contemporary art is often entirely complicit with a culture of manufactured exclusivity and large profits, yet it also has its critical edge that has shown how the glossy allure of transnational capital obscures visions of other possible, less inequitable worlds. Other possible worlds have also appeared in art in a recent turn to the great, circulatory systems of the oceans as both the historical conduits of globalization and the channels through which we might envisage what kind of global imaginary will prevail in response to environmental crisis.