Social Ecology: Rethinking the Interdependence of Individuals, Communities and the Environment (short-term project Feb. 2020)

Organized by Ellen Kaplan, Theater; Michele Wick, Psychology

February 21-22, 2020

Project Description

Social Ecology, which originates with the theories of radical ecologist Murray Bookchin, considers the political organization of societies in relation to the natural world. Bookchin’s theories are most aptly expressed by his dictum: “the domination of nature by man stems from the domination of human by human.” His work focuses on the emergence of social hierarchies, centrally suggesting that a truly ecological society must be considered as a coherent whole; to address the environmental catastrophe that we face, it is essential to address the political, social, economic and transpersonal systems that enmesh us.

Psychologists trained in the theory and praxis of social ecology share Bookchin’s perspective and have used their methodological tools to investigate complicated interactions across multiple levels of inquiry including social, psychological, and institutional contexts. For example, Daniel Stokols suggests that resolving climate change requires finding robust remedial strategies across several settings and scales. Social ecologists/psychologists encourage defining and measuring variables across multiple levels of analysis, from geopolitical and economic drivers to local community settings, as well as households and individuals.

How do we apply the principles of Social Ecology, a deep and wide-ranging critique of the structures of domination and hierarchy that characterize human society, to looming environmental catastrophe? How can thinking through Social Ecology help us find solutions to global resource inequity, population imbalance, natural resource depletion? How do we resituate humanity and the human, re-imagining categories through which we have long thought, from the global to the national to the municipal to the familial to the personal, from notions of the communal to notions of the self, to address and repair climate catastrophe? During this short-term Kahn, we plan to explore the central concepts of Social Ecology across political, economic, cultural, psychological, and other domains to address the links between the ecological and political crises we face now.