Toward a Sustainable Social Ecology: The Emergence of a Communitarian Perspective
Social ecology has become a step-child in the realm of social and ecological studies, in part because it is grounded in the philosophy of Murray Bookchin who has been more adroit in expressing what social ecology opposes rather than articulating a sustainable and pragmatic social ecology applicable to modern problems and issues. Communitarinism has emerged as a useful paradigm for addressing the need to understand human behavior and culture from an ecological perspective that is embedded within natural ecological systems. Its principle conceptual strength is its emphasis upon achieving a balance between the demands for personal autonomy among citizens with the need of the society to maintain order through the imposition of social authority. It does so, however, by flexibly recognizing the inherent differences across societies in tolerating autonomy and authority and seeks to expand or restrict the expression of either social force in the interest of achieving social equilibrium. Communitarianism also provides a productive approach for community development and change that is sensitive to the underlying ecological demands of natural systems and the species inhabiting these environs. However, communitarianism’s greatest strength is its pragmatic and essentially optimistic approach to achieving a harmonious relationship between members of a society as well as its willingness to do so within the context of the underlying needs and constraints of natural ecosystems. These qualities – flexibility, pragmatism and optimism – render this ecological most useful as a tool for achieving ecological sustainability at the personal, social and environmental levels across divergent societies and cultures.
Keywords: Social Ecology, Communitarianism, Sustainability
Dr. Edward T. Wimberley
Professor, Ecological Studies, Division of Marine and Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University