Perspectives for a New Social Theory of Sustainability

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Springer International Publishing Perspectives for a New Social Theory of Sustainability
Springer International Publishing - Perspectives for a New Social Theory of Sustainability

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This ambitious book outlines the theoretical and practical implications of the recent technological revolution of human/non-human relations for social researchers, and in so doing, seeks to develop more adequate theoretical and methodological models for social scientists to describe and investigate these social transformations and their consequences. The environmental strategies to balance human actions with the earth’s resources utilizing a sustainable approach can inspire original conceptualizations and, therefore, a new sociological paradigm rooted in a necessary rethinking of the dualism between nature and culture, and of human relations in a hyper-connected society increasingly composed by non-human elements.

Chapter discussions include:

  • Sustainability and the crisis of the theoretical functional model

  • Environmental sustainability and the evolution of capitalism

  • From moral imperatives to indicators and indices: a methodology for validating and assessing SDGs

  • An understanding of psychopathological syndromes related to social environments

  • Social research between participation and critical detachment

Perspectives for a New Social Theory of Sustainability emphasizes that not only are modernist theories of unlimited wealth and progress no longer supportable, but also that their theoretical and empirical settings must be reassessed if society is to move towards sustainability. It promises to be required reading for students and researchers in sociology, psychology, economics and statistics, as well as professionals within government organizations and NGOs focused on human rights work, global inequities, ethical activism, and the UN Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals.
"This book provides a unique toolkit for politicians and citizens on sustainable development and how it is fulfilled every day."
David Maria SASSOLI

European Parliament President

Weitere Informationen

Anmerkung Illustrationen:
XVII, 128 p. 5 illus.

Introduction by Enrico Giovannini, member of the Club of Rome, member of the “Commission Economique de la Nation” of the French Government, and co-chair of the "Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development".

Paolo De Nardis’s paper on Sustainability and crisis of the theoretical functionalist model, points out that for a long time, without a prevalent paradigm for the sociology, the north-American functionalism has been considered the “sociological theory” par excellence. This approach, especially in the Parsons’ proposal, concerned a mechanistic construction of the social system resorting to a systemic engineering based on the role of the AGIL scheme and its idealistic four shaped organizational functioning. This mechanism only could consent to optimize the performance of the social units in terms of functional success and efficiency for a normative common setting, shared as basic and unquestionable model of society. Its values are connected to those of the market, on one side “money” and “political power”, on the other one “power”. They live side by side in a balanced system, aimed to the best performance, the typical category in the Fifties and Sixties of the last century, when profit and efficiency prevailed. The sustainable perspective submits to a harsh criticism this approach and, as a result, it creates serious problem for the analytic functional model. The sustainable paradigm outlines a new idea of the life quality and a new definition of the social relation in terms of solidarity and equality that could requalify the social individual. The fundamental salvage of this category, from the same concept Marx outlined in the famous critics on the political economy, can prelude a possible theoretical outline and the definition of the prolegomena of a new anthropology.

Mariella Nocenzi’s paper aims to explore the opportunity of a rethinking – and, when necessary, of a new formulation – of the theoretical and methodological categories for the analysis of the social action in modified social spaces and times. If the sociological characterization of the Anthropocene society by means of quantitative data is increasingly applied in the sociological investigations (see at the intersectional approach or at the evidences about a platform society), the deductive process to build a theoretical definition of the current processes is far from to be outlined grabbing on to the classical paradigms. The analytical exploration of some environments of social actions - as the urban ones – allows to read these processes using the social categories of time, space, relation first through a traditional approach and, then, with those differences that outline the current increasing trends to the sustainability approach.

The Uliano Conti’s paper proposes an analysis of sustainability. Sustainability does not exist only in relation to the socio-economic development, but also as an integral social model. This model limits the consequences of techno-nihilistic capitalism, originated by the desire to modify the world. Desire is a creative social element, but it is also at the roots of techno-nihilistic capitalism. Human desire is represented by the Edipic-acquisitive myth. Because of the crisis of techno-nihilistic capitalism, the Edipic-acquisitive myth gives way to the Narcissus-fatalistic myth. The first is a conqueror, the second is a consumer. Acquisitive desire, narcissistic desire, socio-economic sustainability, integral social sustainability are the elements that redefine sustainability as existential disposition characterized by the Wolffian surrender: surrender to the environmental contingency and catch, of what the human being can know and control. Sustainability is a new epistemology of coexistence.

Paolo Corvo’s paper on The thought of Zygmunt Bauman as an interesting key for entering a new social

theory aims to analyze the principal characteristics of sociology of Zygmunt Bauman, with particular reference to theory of liquid society and consumerism. The thought of Bauman is considered strategic for creating new conceptualizations and a new sociological paradigm. In fact, the problematic spreading of globalization and the effects of individualized society have caused the crisis of the traditional interpretations of society. Bauman affirm that is necessary rethinking social theory because the transformation of modernity determined intensive and extensive changes on all aspects of human life. In his work he seeks to take out familiarity the social world as we have come to understand it. The aim of Bauman is to create a critical and innovative sociological imagination. His central topic concerns the relationship of social developments and transformations with freedom, justice, morality and the suffering of human beings.

Felice Addeo, Angela Delli Paoli, Emiliana Mangone,In Sustainability and SDGs: From moral

imperatives to indicators and indexes by Sustainability is a multidimensional concept not directly measurable which needs a set of indicators to be assessed. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) program offers a detailed dashboard of sustainability indicators. However, the path from statistics to value assumptions and policy at the basis of this program is not clear. In order to produce usable knowledge for policy, sustainability assessment needs to be redefined from a technical to a moral process entailing prior responses to normative questions. Therefore, the paper suggests a model for sustainable development based on a set of moral imperatives which further specifies the popular three-pillar model of sustainability based on the social, economic and environmental dimensions. Thus, the aim of the paper is twofold. On the one hand, it aims to clarify the conceptual framework at the basis of country-level sustainability. On the other hand, it aims to propose a methodology for assessing the different moral dimensions of sustainability. Operationally, using the latest national cross-country data available with multivariate statistics analysis, the study builds several composite indexes to assess European Member States performance on single imperatives in order to identify priorities and gaps that must be closed to achieve sustainability.

Maurizio Esposito paper’s on The concept of Sustainability in Project Cycle Management. A

sociological approach sees the world is undergoing a phase of profound transformation. The crisis in the Western world has nullified years of economic and social progress and highlighted the structural weaknesses of the welfare at international level. Meanwhile, the world is rapidly changing, and the longterm challenges are becoming more and more pronounced. This is the reason the EU has implemented a number of program tools whose main objective is smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The theme of sustainability, combined with that of responsibility, is analysed in this article, within the program strategies of Project Cycle Management and other planning and programming tools. Sustainability thus becomes a question of social survival: State, the market, the Third Sector are all undergoing the same crisis and subjected to similar challenges. The hypothesis is that the by ability to identify a new balance between these spheres depends on the stability of the social system, as well as the identification of a new model of "sustainable welfare".

Carmelo Lombardo and Lorenzo Sabetta in
Unintended Consequences and the Circuitous Way of

Sustainability: The Case of “Emancipatory Catastrophism”
propose what is almost a cliché: the modern

age is the age of side effects, unintentional developments, and paradoxical results. A prime example of all

of this is the well-known dynamic of the Faustian Power, which eternally wills evil and eternally works

well. Exactly in this respect, Ulrich Beck has recently written about «emancipatory catastrophism», the

“positive” reformation of modes of thought, of lifestyles and consumer habits, of law, economy, science

and politics (i.e. a reformation of society as a whole) triggered by such a negative thing like global

climate change. In this light, common goods are conceived as the by-product of bad premises: as Beck

has noted, «haven’t climate scientists set in train a transformation of capitalism that is destructive of

nature, a transformation that was long overdue, but seemed impossible before? ». This paper aims to

explain how «global climate risk could usher in a rebirth of modernity», that is, how certain “positive”

social phenomena (e.g. environmentalism, sustainability, ethical activism, etc.) were brought about as

consequences of some destructive developments, initially like mere reactive responses, then like fullblown

autonomous phenomena.

Alessandra Sannella’s paper aims to analyze if it is possible shift the paradigm. Exploring innovative paradigms that can interpret new theory needs and identify the priorities between the need for social and political innovation. In the society of complexity, the challenge is characterized by multiple factors, including the sustainability objectives proposed by the UN Agenda 2030. In this context, inequalities  represent the first urgent phenomenon to be confronted with what is known to be the result of perverse, adverse and fatalistic events but also the product of specific social and political choices that can be fought. Such conditions focus the attention on the need to reduce the differences by way different approaches.

Social research between participation and critical detachment by Franco Ferrarotti is a final reflection about the real essence of the sociological theoretical and research investigation that is essential in a crucial stage as the current one for the definition of a reference paradigm. For the eminent scholar, the peculiarity of the sociological research consists in its difference from the natural sciences method of the systematic collection and methodical elaboration of data. It is a social operation, that goes beyond naturalistic scientific research and that now is finally mature for achieving has not to learn from the achievements of nineteenth-century physics and natural science. Ferrarotti proposes the sociologist’s personal equation, that involves his own social being, his specific existential experience, his cultural background, his political behaviour, his family ties, his prevailing mental attitudes and stereotypes, his «values», because the sociologist’s most indispensable and irreplaceable instrument of research is his own experience as a social being, as a man who is totally involved with the reality which he is investigating. This scientific dimension, which enables the sociologist to grasp at a single glance a total view of the human sciences and to compare their results, seems one of the most relevant marks to focus a more appropriate paradigm in the observation and interpretation of the contemporary societies.

Nocenzi, Mariella;Nocenzi
Sannella, Alessandra;Sannella
Critically reviews the mono- and multidisciplinary definition of sustainability

Proposes a viable definition of sustainability for wider use in the social sciences

Applies integrated theoretical and methodological analyses for the interpretation of sustainability as a social process and links them to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Features heretofore unpublished commentaries about the question of sustainability for the social sciences from the renowned sociologist Franco Ferrarotti, and expert economist and statistician Enrico Giovannini

Buch gebunden
Springer International Publishing
Mariella Nocenzi, PhD, is a research fellow at Sapienza University of Rome in the Department of Communication and Social Research. She is the scientific director of the International Observatory of Social Theory on New Technologies and Sustainability – Sostenibilia, as well as a founding member of the Scientific Council of the Inter-University Observatory of Gender and Equal Opportunity (GIO). Among her research interests in national and international projects are social history and theory, with a specific link to gender studies, sustainability and social diversity, and risks and conditions of security and safety in globalization. She is an Assistant Editor of the International Review of Sociology and has edited several publications, drawn from research on environmental issues, risk, Europe, young people, equal opportunities, and gender policies. Among her latest publications: Verso una società sostenibile. (Non)umani, reti, città e la sfida del cambiamento (ed.) [Towards a sustainable society. (No)humans, networks, cities and the challenge of the change], 2019.

Alessandra Sannella, PhD, is a social theory researcher at the Department of Human Sciences, Society and Health at the University of Cassino and South Lazio, Italy. She is the coordinator of this University Committee for Sustainable Development (CASe) and represents the University in the Italian Network of Sustainable Universities (RUS). In addition, she is active in the teaching programs of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the Sapienza University of Rome. Her scientific research and activities center on the reduction of inequality in international migration, health and global health policies, and structural violence, with specific attention paid to sustainable development in these areas. In line with these aims, she has coordinated national and European research projects on issues related to migration and the associated questions of bioethics. Her recent publications include articles on vulnerability and violence in society and the book La Violenza tra tradizione e digital society. [Violence between tradition and the digital society] (2017). Sannella has also been the editor of a wide range of sociological journals and academic volumes.

1st ed. 2020


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