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The Sociology of Climate Change as a Sociology of Loss

  • Rebecca Elliott (a1)


Climate change involves human societies in problems of loss: depletion, disappearance, and collapse. The climate changes and changes other things, in specifically destructive ways. What can and should sociology endeavour to know about this particular form of social change? This article outlines the sociology of loss as a project for sociological engagement with climate change, one that breaks out of environmental sociology as the conventional silo of research and bridges to other subfields. I address four interrelated dimensions of loss that climate change presents: the materiality of loss; the politics of loss; knowledge of loss; and practices of loss. Unlike “sustainability”—the more dominant framing in the social sciences of climate change—the sociology of loss examines what does, will, or must disappear rather than what can or should be sustained. Though the sociology of loss requires a confrontation with the melancholia of suffering people and places, it also speaks to new solidarities and positive transformations.

Le changement climatique confronte les sociétés humaines à de nombreux problèmes de perte : épuisement, disparition et effondrement. Le climat change et avec lui bien d’autres choses, de manière parfois destructive. Qu’est-ce que la sociologie peut et doit s’efforcer de savoir sur cette forme particulière de changement social? Cet article décrit la sociologie de la perte comme une forme d’engagement sociologique face au changement climatique, un projet issu de la sociologie de l’environnement, domaine de recherche classique qui ouvre des passerelles vers d’autres sous-domaines. Quatre dimensions interdépendantes de la perte occasionnée par le changement climatique sont abordées dans cet article : la matérialité de la perte ; la politique de la perte ; la connaissance de la perte ; et les pratiques de la perte. Contrairement à la « durabilité » – le cadre dominant du changement climatique dans les sciences sociales –, la sociologie de la perte étudie ce qui disparaît, va ou doit disparaître plutôt que ce qui peut ou devrait être conservé. Si la sociologie de la perte suppose de prendre en compte la mélancolie des personnes et des lieux qui souffrent, elle met également en évidence de nouvelles solidarités et des transformations positives.

Durch den Klimawandel werden die menschlichen Gesellschaften mit zahlreichen Verlusten konfrontiert: Erschöpfung, Verschwinden und Zerfall. Das Klima verändert sich und mit ihm so manch andere Dinge, zum Teil auf zerstörerische Weise. Was kann und muss die Soziologie über diese besondere Form des sozialen Wandels wissen? Dieser Aufsatz beschreibt die Soziologie des Verlustes als eine Form soziologischen Engagements gegenüber dem Klimawandel, ein Projekt, dass der Umweltsoziologie entspringt, einem klassischen Forschungsgebiet mit Verbindungen zu anderen Unterthemen. Vier einander bedingende Dimensionen des durch Klimawandel hervorgerufenen Verlustes werden in diesem Aufsatz angesprochen: die Vergegenständlichung, die Politik, das Begreifen und die Ausdrucksformen des Verlustes. Im Gegensatz zur ,,Dauerhaftigkeit“ – dem vorherrschenden Rahmen des Klimawandels in den Sozialwissenschaften –, untersucht die Soziologie des Verlustes, was verschwindet, verschwinden wird oder muss, und nicht was bewahrt werden kann oder muss. Die Auseinandersetzung der Soziologie des Verlustes mit der Melancholie leidender Personen und Orte bringt neue Solidaritätsformen und positive Veränderungen ans Licht.

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The Sociology of Climate Change as a Sociology of Loss

  • Rebecca Elliott (a1)


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