Embracing the politics of ambiguity: towards a normative theory of 'sustainability'

Amsler, Sarah (2009) Embracing the politics of ambiguity: towards a normative theory of 'sustainability'. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 20 (2). pp. 111-125. ISSN 1045-5752

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10455750902941169

Abstract

One of the most interesting problems within the burgeoning literature on ecological sustainability is that the concept itself, while politically ubiquitous, is also
analytically ambiguous. Many attempts to determine the diverse and contested meanings of sustainability
thus also reflect deeper concerns to clarify the political and ethical implications of the term in practice. Given these ambiguities, does the concept of sustainability serve any useful analytical purpose? Can it help us frame critical questions about how we live and how we might live, particularly as the presumed cultural conditions of sustainable social life, including faith in the possibility of efficacious collective action, are no longer themselves taken for granted? In this paper I argue that it does, and that by problematizing rather than despairing about the uncertainty which is inherent in the concept of sustainability, we can gain better insight into how it is employed in efforts to motivate ecological action.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:One of the most interesting problems within the burgeoning literature on ecological sustainability is that the concept itself, while politically ubiquitous, is also analytically ambiguous. Many attempts to determine the diverse and contested meanings of sustainability thus also reflect deeper concerns to clarify the political and ethical implications of the term in practice. Given these ambiguities, does the concept of sustainability serve any useful analytical purpose? Can it help us frame critical questions about how we live and how we might live, particularly as the presumed cultural conditions of sustainable social life, including faith in the possibility of efficacious collective action, are no longer themselves taken for granted? In this paper I argue that it does, and that by problematizing rather than despairing about the uncertainty which is inherent in the concept of sustainability, we can gain better insight into how it is employed in efforts to motivate ecological action.
Keywords:critical theory, sustainability, ethics of ambiguity, discourse
Subjects:L Social studies > L370 Social Theory
L Social studies > L217 Environmentalism
Divisions:College of Social Science > Centre for Educational Research & Development (CERD)
ID Code:4979
Deposited By: Sarah Amsler
Deposited On:30 Mar 2012 10:36
Last Modified:13 Mar 2013 09:05

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