Green Justification and Environmental Movements

Laura Centemeri (2022)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. This chapter discusses the contribution of the economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) to the study of environmental movements. The first section briefly reviews how EC/SC has contributed to a renewal in the study of collective action by relating it to processes of social construction of public problems. An examination of how actors succeed in turning their “private troubles” into “public issues” reveals that the observable diversity of environmental movements can be explained by the diversity of ways in which (1) material dependencies matter to people and (2) people try to have these concerns legitimized. As illustrated by the debates on “green justification,” some arguments on the value of the environment relativize the political weight of the notion of justifiable social order in favor of the notions of ecosystem and biosphere and consequently challenge the “grammar of justification.” Ecological arguments can also highlight the importance of “familiar attachments” as a specific source of emplaced valuations. In contrast to reductive frameworks (e.g., the NIMBY, “not in my backyard,” syndrome), EC/SC takes into account not only how actors try to manage orders of worth, interest-based valuations, and familiar attachments in arguments about the value of the environment but also how they succeed or fail in having them recognized as publicly relevant. The final section discusses how EC/SC enables comparative and historical analyses of environmental movements, conflicts, and controversies and how it helps to shed light on the transformation of critique in an increasingly interconnected but still diverse world.

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