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Institutional-political scenarios for anthropocene society

Andrew J. Hoffman & P. Devereaux Jennings (2021)

Business and Society, 60(1), pp. 57-94

Abstract. Natural scientists have proposed that humankind has entered a new geologic epoch. Termed the “Anthropocene,” this new reality revolves around the central role of human activity in multiple Earth ecosystems. That challenge requires a rethinking of social science explanations of organization and environment relationships. In this article, we discuss the need to politicize institutional theory as a means understanding “Anthropocene Society,” and in turn what that resultant society means for the Anthropocene in the natural environment. We modify the constitutive elements of institutional orders and a set of main change mechanisms to explore three scenarios around which future Anthropocene Societies might be built—Collapsing Systems, Market Rules, and Cultural Re-Enlightenment. Simultaneously, we use observations from the Anthropocene to expose limitations in present institutional theory and propose extensions to remedy them. Overall, this article challenges organizational scholars to consider a new paradigm under which research in environmental sustainability and social sustainability takes place.

Extract: “While scientists and environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) may play a role in articulating the concerns over climate change and other natural environment problems (Hoffman, 2011; Lefsrud & Meyer, 2012), the contested nature of these debates and the willingness of some to discount or outright reject the results of scientific analyses that contradict their worldview leaves the social dimension of Anthropocene Society woefully inadequate. In fact, some speculate that the introduction of nature by giving voice to nonhumans and future generations within the development of institutional orders creates challenges for the orders of worth framework (Boltanski & Thévenot, 2006) as it requires which evokes notions of deep ecology (Lafaye & Thévenot, 1993).” (p. 64)

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