Module Details

SC554-7-SP-CO: Society And The Environment: The Global Challenge

Note: This module is inactive. Visit the Module Directory to view modules and variants offered during the current academic year.

Year: 2017/18
Department: Sociology
Essex credit: 20
ECTS credit: 10
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: No
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Prof Ted Benton
Teaching Staff: Professor Ted Benton
Contact details: Michele Hall, Graduate Administrator, Telephone 01206 873051, Email:

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This course aims to provide a wide-ranging introduction to the study of contemporary environmental issues and the ideas of both policy-makers and more radical social movements. The focus will be on the ways sociologists have responded to the challenge of this new research and policy-agenda, but there will necessarily be some references (very introductory and non-technical) to other disciplines - e.g. environmental economics and development-theory. Active student participation is very much welcomed. The course has three main components:

1. The Rise of the Global Agenda: Including the 'Limits to Growth' debate; the United Nations initiatives on environment and development (esp. the concept of 'sustainable development'); the 1992 Rio conference, Agenda 21 and the aftermath; and case studies of global warming, ozone depletion and biodiversity (other issues may be included depending on student interest and experience).

2. Environmental Reformism and Radical Alternatives: Orthodox approaches to policy include legal and other forms of state-regulation; fiscal incentives; educational and cultural change, including green consumerism, ethical investment etc; inter-governmental agreements and transnational institutions; and, finally reliance on science and 'clean' technologies. More radical approaches include ecological feminism, green socialism and deep ecology. They argue that much more profound social and cultural changes are needed.

3. Sociology and Ecology: The course concludes with a discussion of some recent sociological texts which attempt to integrate an understanding of ecological issues into a wider sociological framework. Works by J.O'Connor, U.Beck, Jonathan Porritt, J. B. Foster, J.Habermas and others have been included, but this is open to discussion.

Learning and Teaching Methods


100 per cent Coursework Mark


1 essay of approximately 5000 words


  • Bibliography:
  • Beck, U. (1992) Risk Society. London: Sage
  • Benton, T. (ed) (1996) The Greening of Marxism
  • Dickens, P. 1992 Reconstructing Nature. London & NY: Routledge
  • Dobson, A. (2000) Green Political Thought. London: Unwin Hyman
  • Grubb, M., et al (1993) The Earth Summit Agreements. London: Earthscan
  • Martell, L. (1994) Ecology and Society. Cambridge: Polity
  • Meadows, D.L. et al (1972) The Limits to Growth New York: Universe
  • Porritt, J 2005 Capitalism as if the World Matters. London: Earthscan
  • Redclift, M. and Benton, E. (1994) Social Theory and the Global Environment. London: Routledge
  • World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Our Common Future Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Yearley, S. (1991) The Green Case London: Harper Collins

Further information