Luigi Pellizzoni

Reassessing Sustainability. An Introduction



Debates over sustainable development highlight its inherently contentious character. Not only its three "pillars" (economic, ecologic and social) have enjoyed a varied scientific and policy success, the social dimension of sustainability remaining the weakest and most controversial, but there are different strategies as regards the way to give operational meaning to the concept. Some follow a pragmatic approach, where sustainability plays a boundary role thanks precisely to its ambiguities. Others choose a specific outlook, according to a preference for "stronger" or "weaker" interpretations of the role of technology. Still others elaborate on the political import of the notion, its use for political purposes and within social struggles. Hardly insignificant from this viewpoint is the connection between the emergence and spread of the sustainability discourse and the rise of neoliberalism. A reassessment of the issue in the light of ongoing social and environmental changes is mandatory. The articles included in this issues offer an updated discussion of major theoretical and empirical aspects, from biofuels to green urban management, from sustainable tourism to climate change policies, devoting particular attention to the strengths and weaknesses of current prevailing "reformist" approaches. Sustainability remains a wicked problem, the performative role of which in inducing social transformation calls for a renewed sociological inquiry.


  • Sustainability
  • environmental governance
  • technoscience
  • neoliberalism


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