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Probing the interfaces between the social sciences and social-ecological resilience: insights from integrative and hybrid perspectives in the social sciences

Samantha Stone-Jovicich, CSIRO Land and Water Flagship, Adaptive Social and Economic Sciences Program


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Social scientists, and scholars in related interdisciplinary fields, have critiqued resilience thinking’s oversimplification of social dimensions of coupled social-ecological systems. Resilience scholars have countered with “where is the ecology” in social analyses? My aim is to contribute to current efforts to strengthen inter- and transdisciplinary debate and inquiry between the social-ecological resilience community and the social sciences. I synthesize three social science perspectives, which stress the complex, dynamic, and multiscalar interconnections between the biophysical and social realms in explaining social-environmental change, and which place both the social and ecology centre stage in their analyses: materio-spatial world systems analysis, critical realist political ecology, and actor-network theory. By integrating, in a nondeterministic and nonessentialist manner, the biophysical environment into social inquiries (integrative approaches) or by altogether abolishing the ecology/nature and human/culture divide (hybrid perspectives), these three social-science perspectives are well placed to foster stronger inter- and transdisciplinary ties with social-ecological resilience. Materio-spatial world systems analysis is highly compatible with resilience thinking. The emphasis on world systems structures and processes offers the potential to enrich resilience analyses of global environmental change, global governance and stewardship, planetary boundaries, and multiscale resilience. Critical realist political ecology offers avenues for more in-depth interdisciplinary inquiries around local/traditional/indigenous knowledge systems and power. It also challenges resilience scholars to incorporate critical analyses of resilience’s core concepts and practices. Actor-network theory proposes a very different starting point for understanding and assessing social-ecological resilience. Its focus on “resilience-in-the-making” offers unique insights but also pushes the conceptual boundaries of resilience thinking.

Key words

actor-network theory; agency; ANT; human-environment relations; hybrid perspectives; interdisciplinary; normative issues; political ecology; power; social-ecological resilience; social-ecological systems; social sciences; social systems; transdisciplinary; world systems analysis

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087