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No agency, no sustainability : conceptualising the loss of agency and how to restore it for sustainability

Glock, Jan Peter LU (2017) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20171
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Anthropogenic climate change and environmental degradation demand humanity to depart from the growth imperative forming the economic structure of the world. In other words: Structural transformation is needed. Much of the sustainability debate in academy, politics, media and the public revolves around two paradigms: minor changes within the current system (e.g. green consumption, green growth) or shifting responsibility to the individual (e.g. environmental education, science communication) without reflecting on constraining circumstance. Whereas the first paradigm does not aim for transformation, I argue that the second paradigm does not lead to transformation because it neglects a vital aspect: individual, self-determined agency.
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Anthropogenic climate change and environmental degradation demand humanity to depart from the growth imperative forming the economic structure of the world. In other words: Structural transformation is needed. Much of the sustainability debate in academy, politics, media and the public revolves around two paradigms: minor changes within the current system (e.g. green consumption, green growth) or shifting responsibility to the individual (e.g. environmental education, science communication) without reflecting on constraining circumstance. Whereas the first paradigm does not aim for transformation, I argue that the second paradigm does not lead to transformation because it neglects a vital aspect: individual, self-determined agency.
Along arguments made by e.g. Standing (2009, 2011) and Wrenn (2015), I investigate how the neoliberal welfare system and labour market deprive individuals of their agency, rendering them unable to become agents of change for structural transformation into a sustainable human-environment system. To conceptualise the deprivation and find a starting point for emancipation, I develop the Model of Transformation, with the Cycle of Reproduction and the Cycle of Transformation. The Model is based on a critical realist ontology in collaboration with Bourdieu’s practice theory concepts capital, habitus and the field as well as socio-psychological evidence.
I substantiate the model along an illustrative journey in Germany: From the structural macro level (neoliberalism) to the meso level (welfare system and labour market) via flexibilisation and dismantling; And from the meso level to the individual micro level (habitus) via relative poverty, stigmatisation and future anxiety.
Based on the fall of agency as conceptualised in the Model of Transformation, I analyse an unconditional basic income as emancipative reform. The unconditional basic income has the potential to revive the individual agency needed for structural transformation. Further research should critically analyse the conditions needed to enable the new agency to unfold towards challenging unsustainable structures and aiming towards a sustainable human-environment system. (Less)
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author
Glock, Jan Peter LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20171
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
agency, unconditional basic income, neoliberalism, insecurity, structural transformation, sustainability science
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2017:012
language
English
id
8915769
date added to LUP
2017-06-19 17:34:54
date last changed
2017-06-19 17:34:54
@misc{8915769,
  abstract     = {Anthropogenic climate change and environmental degradation demand humanity to depart from the growth imperative forming the economic structure of the world. In other words: Structural transformation is needed. Much of the sustainability debate in academy, politics, media and the public revolves around two paradigms: minor changes within the current system (e.g. green consumption, green growth) or shifting responsibility to the individual (e.g. environmental education, science communication) without reflecting on constraining circumstance. Whereas the first paradigm does not aim for transformation, I argue that the second paradigm does not lead to transformation because it neglects a vital aspect: individual, self-determined agency. 
Along arguments made by e.g. Standing (2009, 2011) and Wrenn (2015), I investigate how the neoliberal welfare system and labour market deprive individuals of their agency, rendering them unable to become agents of change for structural transformation into a sustainable human-environment system. To conceptualise the deprivation and find a starting point for emancipation, I develop the Model of Transformation, with the Cycle of Reproduction and the Cycle of Transformation. The Model is based on a critical realist ontology in collaboration with Bourdieu’s practice theory concepts capital, habitus and the field as well as socio-psychological evidence. 
I substantiate the model along an illustrative journey in Germany: From the structural macro level (neoliberalism) to the meso level (welfare system and labour market) via flexibilisation and dismantling; And from the meso level to the individual micro level (habitus) via relative poverty, stigmatisation and future anxiety. 
Based on the fall of agency as conceptualised in the Model of Transformation, I analyse an unconditional basic income as emancipative reform. The unconditional basic income has the potential to revive the individual agency needed for structural transformation. Further research should critically analyse the conditions needed to enable the new agency to unfold towards challenging unsustainable structures and aiming towards a sustainable human-environment system.},
  author       = {Glock, Jan Peter},
  keyword      = {agency,unconditional basic income,neoliberalism,insecurity,structural transformation,sustainability science},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {No agency, no sustainability : conceptualising the loss of agency and how to restore it for sustainability},
  year         = {2017},
}