Climate Change and Society: The Chimera of Behaviour Change Technologies

Janette Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Our dependence on energy from fossil fuels is causing potentially disastrous global warming and posing fundamental questions about the commensurability of consumer capitalism and a sustainable society. UK and Scottish governments have taken a lead in climate change legislation intended to avoid worst-case scenarios through low carbon transition. There are, however, considerable uncertainties about whether individualized, market-driven, materialistic societies can manage such radical transformations. Policies to cut household emissions focus on behaviour change through social marketing and incremental modifications to consumption. This technocratic model produces very little societal change, and seems likely to be self-defeating. The framing of the problem as one of behavioural adjustments to individual self-interest obscures alternative understandings of society as a collective accomplishment. Through simultaneous ‘knowing and not knowing’ about unsustainable consumerism, a behavioural model allows governing to proceed, while marginalizing awkward questions about the contradictions between economic growth and low carbon transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-125
JournalSociology
Volume46
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012

Keywords

  • behaviour technologies
  • climate change
  • consumerism
  • neo-liberal capitalism

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