Paradigmatic Change in Social Science: From Human Exemptions to an Ecological Paradigm

  • Dunlap R
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Until recently, throughout the social sciences, the adaptation of modern societies to the biophysical environment was either seen as non-problematic, or not considered at all. However, there has been a rapid accumulation of evidence that strongly suggests that the ecological survival of modern societies cannot be taken for granted. This "ecological paradigm" provides a new image of human societies, for it entails recognition that despite their possession of exceptional characteristics humans are not immune to ecological constraints. Adherence to this paradigm leads one to view human beings as members of a finite global ecosystem, their existence ultimately dependent on the continued stability of that system. While recognizing that man's powerful technology makes him the "dominant" species in the ecosystem, adherents understand that this very dominance threatens the continued stability of the ecosystem upon which our existence depends. By calling attention to the fact that man is governed by the same physical laws that regulate the growth and development of all other species, this new paradigm rejects the "exemptionalist" perspective.

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  • Riley E. Dunlap

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