Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present is a comprehensive textbook to guide students through the complexities of social theory today. Over 30 chapters, written by an international team of contributors, demonstrate clearly the practical applications of social theory in making sense of the modern world. Students are both introduced to the most significant theories and guided through the major social developments which shape our lives. Key features of the book are: clearly structured and readable prose; bullet pointed summaries and annotated further reading for each topic; makes complex issues accessible to undergraduates; focuses on relevance and practicality; chapter lay-out which is ideal for t



Introduction: Environmentalism and Anti-Environmentalism

An ‘environmentalist’, says the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘one who is concerned with protection of the environment’. Nowadays most of us in the West are ‘environmentalists’ by this simple definition. We are uneasy about living in what Ulrich Beck (1995) calls ‘a risk society’, i.e. one subjected to risks seemingly beyond our control and potentially far-reaching in magnitude and spatial extent. Many of these risks are environmental, ranging from global warming, post-Chernobyl contamination, harmful food additives, to polluted city air.

Many people will also have heard that technological and economic growth, i.e. ‘development’, which has long been thought desirable and even the measure of ‘progress’, are somehow the culprits producing environmental degradation. Even more unsettling. However, we might have been reassured after 1992's ...

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