The Sociology of green transition

Course content

This course provides students with the conceptual tools needed to understand, analyze, as well as critically and constructively engage with ongoing societal transformations induced by climate change, biodiversity and other ecological crises, colloquially known as green transition.

It builds on scholarship and meso-level theories founded in environmental and climate sociology, branching also into other literatures to ask foundational questions about society-wide change towards sustainability: how much of it is currently happening across societal sectors, domains, and levels; how has it or is it currently being brought about; what shapes, conditions, or hampers more of it?

To pose these questions in macro-sociologically adequate terms, the course starts by reviewing debates on two contrasting diagnoses: the risk society diagnosis of Ulrich Beck and the ecological modernization diagnosis of Maarten Hajer, John Dryzek and others. At stake here is the questions of the place of environmental concern, policy, and practice in reworking (late) modernity.

From here, the course delves into the main institutional vectors of green social change, covering in turn questions of:
a) socio-technical change (green technological innovation, changing infrastructures);
b) political-economic change (shifting modes of governance and politics, new circular market models);
c) mobilization-driven change (environmental social movements, urban green communities);
d) changing North-South relations (new globalized inequalities, climate justice activism);
e) everyday practice change (emerging consumptions habits, new social distinctions and divisions); and
f) cultural value change (continuity and change in moral valuations of ‘nature’ in the Anthropocene).

Throughout, focus is on understanding present-day green social change in light of historical experience and meso-level sociological theory, with a view to taking stock of what near-future changes lie ahead. 
Alongside examining the various substantive dimensions of green transition, we will also discuss adequate methodological strategies affiliated with the different problem complexes and vectors of social change. Throughout, students work on aligning analytical and methodological strategies via case analyses.

Education

Elective course
 

Course package (MSc 2015):

Knowledge, organisation and politics

Learning outcome

On successful completion of the course, the student should be able to:
 

  • account for the core concepts and theories covered in the curriculum and how they relate to each other (including where they stand in mutual tension or contradiction),
     
  • identify and discuss strengths and weaknesses in how the approaches introduced in the curriculum facilitate analysis of different social aspects of past, present, and on-coming green transition processes
     
  • apply the analytical and empirical perspectives introduced in the course to present and analyse concrete empirical phenomena (cases) of past, present, and on-coming green transition
     

More specifically, the student should have acquired:
 

Knowledge:
making the student able to account for the central concepts, theories, and empirical tendencies and analyses regarding social aspects of green transition, as covered in the course syllabus,
 

Skills:
making the student able to select appropriate concepts, theories, and empirical insights pertaining to uncertain and contested aspects of green transition; to describe and analyse concrete empirical phenomena (cases) in contemporary societies; and to assess the strength and weaknesses of the different approached covered in the course syllabus in relation to concrete dimensions of the green transition,
 

Competences:
making the student able to convincingly present sociological concepts, theories, and analyses related to green transition in an appropriate format, via concrete case studies, as well as engage in a discussion of strengths and weaknesses of his or her own work on topics related to the green transition, starting from the content of the course syllabus.

The course will combine lectures, class discussions, student presentations and peer-feedback workshops. A number of guest lecturers engaged in various practices related to green transition will be invited, and the course may possibly involve one or more site visits (where relevant).

A reading package consisting of introductory texts and research papers will be provided for the course, including John Dryzek et al. (2003), Green States and Social Movements.

Participants are expected to have at least two years of undergraduate training in sociology or the equivalent thereof, providing similar knowledge of sociological theory and social scientific methodology.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
ECTS
15 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio, -
Individual or group.
A portfolio assignment is defined as a series of short assignments during the course  that address one or more set questions and feedback is offered during the course.
All of the assignments are submitted together for assessment at the end of the course. The portfolio assignments must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student.
Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in The General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
Aid
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see the learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 296
  • Exam Preparation
  • 60
  • English
  • 412