The social sciences are often seen as being in opposition to conservation and the practice of conservationists. Yet social scientists have made important contributions to conservation and could make even more contributions if they are willing to use their perceptive, insightful tools as a means of both improving the practice of conservation and sharpening social science’s critique of conservation ideas and practices. I provide two lists: first, a list of the ways in which I think social science work has already improved conservation practice and, second, a set of generalizations made by some social scientists about the practice of conservation that are incorrect or incomplete. I argue that a more careful application of social science tools and approaches could begin an active and informed exploration of the diversity of values, histories, institutions, politics and approaches in conservation. This would facilitate the sharpening of social science’s critique of conservation ideas and practices and, through these, improve the practice of conservation.
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