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Workers and agents in environmental management and governance

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Ingmar Lippert
added 2 research items
This book addresses both, Science and Technology Studies and Environmental Sociology, problematising the role of the human, breathing, agent who is required to put Ecological Modernisation into practice. This type of agent has been undertheorised by Ecological Modernisation Theory. Ingmar Lippert offers a conceptualisation of such an agent by drawing on relationalist takes on structure and agency, i.e. actor-network theory and Pierre Bourdieu's school of thought. For Ecological Modernisation Theory remaining hegemonic, as his book suggests, it is apt to focus on the agency and constraints in the "doing" of environmental management. By way of a case study in the construction of a glass recycling network, Ingmar Lippert tells a critical story exploring a Bourdieusian conceptualisation of field and habitus in their hybridity to theorise agents of ecological modernisation.
This book contributes to an emerging position in the debate on how environmental management can fruitfully be researched. To this end, it employs two texts conceptualising and contextualising environmental management as an object of study. First, by means of a philosophy of science case study on an university course on environmental management, the book problematises the discourse of sustainable development and the hegemonic take on managing environments. Critiquing the shortcomings of the course "Environmental and Resource Management" of Brandenburg University of Technology we offer a conceptualisation of a new academic field, Environmental Management Studies. Such a field would objectify the social realities of environmental management as a practical activity taking place within a messy world. Grounding this field, the book suggests, calls for engaging critically with three broad issues: the history of environmental management, the hegemonic discourse on sustainability and possibilities for radical reforms. Second, by way of historically contextualising environmental management rationalities, the book discusses how radical political theory and policy-making could draw insights from that history. Informed by Richard Grove's account of the relation between imperialism and the emergence of modern ways of controlling natures (1994) the book provides a more reflexive base for Environmental Management Studies in manoeuvres towards the shared goal of a green future for all.
Ingmar Lippert
added a research item
In the 1970s widespread awareness of a 'global environmental crisis' began to emerge in Western societies. Specific staff were employed to deal with environmental problems. While they are supposed to manage the greening of their organisations, committed to sustainable development, research did not study these agents in their own right. By drawing on two ethnographic cases this paper questions whether their dis-positions are likely to help in approaching sustainability. The paper then takes up Bourdieu's concepts of habitus and field, a critical realist account of normativity and ANT's emphasis of heterogeneity to argue that the agents have conflicting norma-tive dispositions.
Ingmar Lippert
added a research item
Recycling is a concept, normally taken-for-granted within academic approaches to environmental management. Recognising that recycling should be preceded by reduction of waste and re-use, the science of recycling usually addresses its object as an activity which needs optimising, rather than questioning. My take on recycling differs from the standard one: I focus on possibilities to conceptualise an agent who was responsible for implementing a recycling scheme for her organisation. By way of drawing on sociological theories (especially Bourdieu’s theory of practice and Actor-network theory) I point to significant problems in approaching sustainability. The empirical data consists of ethnographic field work which illustrates societal implications of thinking about transforming organisations towards sustainable conduct: by constructing a recycling scheme the waste manager of the organisation ensures that the organisation does not move towards reducing or altering resource consumption. Rather, she stabilises an unsustainable trajectory and inhibits societal transformation even beyond her organisation. Thus, sociological theory allows for problematising and better grasping of the societal implications and limitations of environmental management.
Ingmar Lippert
added a research item
We propose an analysis of environmental management (EM) as work and as practical activity. This approach enables empirical studies of the diverse ways in which professionals, scientists, NGO staffers, and activists achieve the partial manageability of specific “environments”. In this introduction, we sketch the debates in Human Geography, Management Studies, Science and Technology Studies to which this special issue contributes. We identify the limits of understanding EM though the framework of ecological modernization, and show how political ecology and workplace studies provide important departures towards a more critical approach. Developing these further, into a cosmopolitical direction, we propose studying EM as sets of socially and materially situated practices. This enables a shift away from established approaches which treat EM either as a toolbox whose efficiency has to be assessed, or as simply the implementation of dominant projects and the materialisation of hegemonic discourse. Such a shift renders EM as always messy practices of engagement, critique and improvisation. We conclude that studying the distributed and situated managing agencies, actors and their practices allows to imagine new forms of critical interventions.
Ingmar Lippert
added a research item
Environments seem to matter in many ways, as resources, as constraints, as enablers, and in complex ambivalence and entanglements. But how do they come to matter? Is “the environment” merely a cosmic signifier, an issue of semiotics? I take the stance that environments have been mattering for humans all along. A universalising claim; but environments, and the use of specific environmental matters, matter even to shape the string that forms carrier bags, for herbs and for stories. For environmental STS—an STS that engages with environmental reality-making—in this decade, it should be quite straight forward to invite environments as mattering materially as well as in unruly ways into our storytelling. Gwen Ottinger’s (2013) as well as Candis Callison’s (2014) monographs may superficially generate some optimism. Ottinger leads the reader into the midst of petrol capitalism which Stengers (2015), alongside many others, struggles with. Ottinger follows and troubles actors who “have to” green capitalism and who may not feel much troubled by it.