A collective alternative to the Inward Turn in environmental sustainability research

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It has become quite common in environmental sustainability research to promote the influencing of so-called inner dimensions of individuals as means to address pressing environmental problems such as climate change, what we refer to as the Inward Turn. We argue that the conceptual foundations of the Inward Turn, an extreme form of methodological individualism, limit it significantly as a strategy for addressing climate change and other socially relevant environmental problems. After briefly reviewing major shortcomings with the way the Inward Turn conceptualizes the relationship between individuals and social change, including its neglect of causal structures and propensity to abstract its analysis away from problems that are specific to place and time, we sketch the basic tenets of an alternative methodological approach capable of overcoming these limitations. Our approach, however, does not go to the other extreme and neglect the role of individuals; rather, our recognition of the structural drivers of particular environmental problems points to the necessity of specific collective actions by individuals, for example, in the practice of social movements. This recognition demands a rethinking of the role of individual factors, like emotion and empathy, in addressing environmental sustainability problems, namely as they relate to collective action/social movement emergence, development, and outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-297
JournalJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date2021 Nov 26
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Human Geography

Free keywords

  • Individual action
  • Methodological individualism
  • Agent and structure
  • Collective action
  • Structural change


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