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Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction / Edition 1

Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction / Edition 1

by Paul Robbins

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ISBN-10: 1405102659

ISBN-13: 9781405102650

Pub. Date: 07/28/2004

Publisher: Wiley

This text presents a critical survey of the burgeoning field of political ecology, an interdisciplinary area of research which connects politics and economy to problems of environmental control and ecological change.

  • Provides the first full history of the development of political ecology over the last century.
  • Considers the


This text presents a critical survey of the burgeoning field of political ecology, an interdisciplinary area of research which connects politics and economy to problems of environmental control and ecological change.

  • Provides the first full history of the development of political ecology over the last century.
  • Considers the major challenges facing the field now and for the future.
  • Written to be accessible to students at all levels and from different disciplines.
  • Uses case examples to explore abstract, theoretical issues in a down-to-earth way.
  • Features study boxes, introducing key figures in the development of the discipline and summarizing their key works.
  • Details of the author’s own research experiences to offer a personal glimpse into political ecology research.

Product Details

Publication date:
Critical Introductions to Geography Series
Product dimensions:
6.96(w) x 9.84(h) x 0.97(d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures.

List of Tables.

List of Boxes.


The Goals of the Text.

The Rest of the Book.

Many Acknowledgments.

Part I: What is Political Ecology?.

1. The Hatchet and the Seed:.

What is Political Ecology?.

Challenging Apolitical Ecologies.

Ecoscarcity and the Limits to Growth.

Other Apolitical Ecologies: Diffusion, Valuation, and Modernization.

Common assumptions and modes of explanation.

The Hatchet: Political Ecology as Critique.

The Seed: Political Ecology as Equity and Sustainability Research.

The Dominant Narratives of Political Ecology.

Big Questions and Theses.

The Degradation and Marginalization Thesis.

The Environmental Conflict Thesis.

The Conservation and Control Thesis.

The Environmental Agency and Social Movement Thesis.

The Target of Explanation.

2. A Tree with Deep Roots:.

The Determinist Context.

A Political Ecological Alternative.

The Building Blocks.

Critical Approaches in Early Human/Environment Research.

Continental Critique: Humboldt, Reclus, Wallace, and Sommerville.

Critical Environmental Pragmatism.

From Sewer Socialism to Mitigating Floods: Hazards Research.

The Nature of Society: Cultural Ecology.

Historicism, Landscape, and Culture: Carl Sauer.

Julian Steward: A Positivist Alternative.

System, Function, and Human Life: Mature Cultural Ecology.

Beyond Land and Water: The Boundaries of Cultural Ecology.

The Limits of Progressive Contextualization.

Taking the Plunge.

3. The Critical Tools:.

Common Property Theory.

Green Materialism.

Materialist History.

The Case of Oriental Despotism.

Dependency, Accumulation, and Degradation.

Lessons from Materialism: Broadly Defined Political Economy.

The Producer is the Agent of History: Peasant Studies.

Chayanov and the Rational Producer.

Scott and the Moral Economy.

Gramsci and Peasant Power.

Breaking Open the Household: Feminist Development Studies.

Critical Environmental History.

Whose History & Science? Postcolonial Studies and Power/Knowledge.


Critical Science, Deconstruction, and Ethics.

Political Ecology Emergent.

4. A Field Crystallizes:.

Chains of Explanation.

Peanuts and Poverty in Niger.


The “Silent Violence” of Famine in Nigeria.

Broadly Defined Political Economy.

Struggle in Cote D’Ivoire’s Fields and Pastures.

25 Years Later.

Part II: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges:.

5. Destruction of Nature – Human Impact and Environmental Degradation:.

The Focus on Human Impact.

Defining and Measuring Degradation.

Loss of Natural Productivity.

Loss of Biodiversity.

Loss of Usefulness.

Socio-Environmental Destruction: Creating or Shifting Risk Ecology.

Limits of Land Degradation: Variability, Disturbance, and Recovery.

What Baseline? Non-Human Disturbance and Variability of Ecological Systems.

What Impact? Variable Response to Disturbance.

Can We Go Back? Variable Recovery from Disturbance.

Methodological Imperatives in Political Analysis of Environmental Destruction.

6. Construction of Nature: Environmental Knowledges and Imaginaries:.

Why Bother to Argue That Nature (or Forests or Land Degradation…) is Constructed?.

Choosing Targets for Political Ecological Constructivism.

Three Debates and Motivations.

Hard and Soft Constructivism.

“Radical” Constructivism.

“Soft” Constructivism.

Constructivist Claims in Political Ecology.

“Barstool” Biologists and “Hysterical” Housewives: The Peculiar Case of Local Environmental Knowledge.

Eliciting Environmental Construction.

Talk and Text: Construction in Discourse.

Categories and Taxonomies.

Spatial Knowledge and Construction.

Narratives of Ecological Process and Change.

Genealogies of Representation: Environmental History.

Methodological Issues in Political Analysis of Environmental Construction.

Part III: Political Ecology Now:.

7. Degradation and Marginalization:.

The Argument.

Degradation and Reversibility.

Accumulation and Declining Margins.

The Evidence.

Amazonian Deforestation.

Contract Agriculture in the Caribbean.

Evaluating the Thesis.

Research Example: Common Property Disorders in Rajasthan.

Eliciting Rules of Use.

Recording Environmental Practices and Response to Authority.

Determining Ecological Outcomes.

8. Conservation and Control:.

The Argument.

Coercion, Governmentality, and Internalization of State Rule.

Disintegration of Moral Economy.

The Constructed Character of Natural Wilderness.

Territorialization of Conservation Space.

The Evidence.

New England Fisheries Conservation.

Fire in Madagascar.

Social Forestry Conservation in Southeast Asia.

The Consistency of Colonial and Contemporary Forestry.

The Limits of Social Reform in Forestry.

Evaluating the Thesis.

Riven Bureaucracies and Efficacious Species.

Alternative Conservation?.

Research Example: The Biogeography of Power in the Aravalli.

A Classic Case of Conservation and Control?.

Establishing historical patterns of access.

Understanding contemporary land uses and enclosure impacts.

Tracking unintended consequences.

9. Environmental Conflict:.

The Argument.

Social structure as differential environmental access and responsibility.

Property institutions as politically partial constructions.

Environmental development and classed, gendered, raced imaginaries.

The Evidence.

Agricultural Development in Gambia.

Gambia and the Gendered Land/Labor Nexus.

Land Conflict in the US West.

Evaluating the Thesis.

Stock Characters and Standard Scripts.

Research Example: Gendered Landscapes and Resource Bottlenecks in the Thar.

Determining Differential Land Uses and Rights.

Tracking Changes in Availability.

Evaluating Divergent Impacts.

10. Environmental Identity and Movement:.

The Argument.

Differential Risk and Ecological Injustice.

Moral Economies and Peasant Resistance.

Postcolonialism and Rewriting Ecology from the Margins.

The Evidence.

Andean Livelihood Movements.

Modernization and Identity.

Hijacking Chipko: Trees, Gender, Livelihood, and Essentialism in India.

Women’s Movement or Peasant Movement?.

Evaluating the Thesis.

Making Politics by Making a Living.

The risk of primitive romances and essentialisms.

The reality of dissent.

In the Field: Pastoral Polities in Rajasthan.

Agrarian Alliances and Traditional Technology as Resistance.

Ambivalence, Research, and Ethics.

Part IV: Where to Now?.

11. Where to Now?.

“Against Political Ecology”?.

Too Much Theory or Too Little?.

Denunciations versus Asymmetries.

Three Calls for Symmetry.

From Destruction to Production.

From Peasants to Producers.

From Chains to Networks.

The Hybridity Thesis.

Political Ecologies of Success.

New Substantive Research Mandates.

Population Is Too Important to be Left to the Malthusians.

Genetic Modification Won’t Go Away.

Cities are Political Ecologies.

Against “Against Political Ecology”: Retaining Both Theory and Surprise.

In the Meantime….



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