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The Meta-Power Paradigm

Impacts and Transformations of Agents, Institutions, and Social Systems-- Capitalism, State, and Democracy in a Global Context

Edited By Tom R. Burns and Peter M. Hall

This work presents, elaborates, and illustrates what is arguably the most important concept in the social sciences: power. It focuses particularly on a major class of power phenomena, meta-power, that is, power over power, transformative and structuring power. This encompasses powers to establish, reform, and transform social systems (institutions, power hierarchies, cultural formations, and socio-technical and infrastructural systems). Understanding meta-power is essential to the effective analysis of the formation of societal structures, their dynamics and evolution. This collection presents numerous illustrations and case studies at local, meso, and macro levels, showing how meta-powering is mobilized and operates in different contexts. The book should be of particular interest to business and management researchers, anthropologists, historians, legal scholars, political scientists, and, of course, sociologists.


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C H A P T E R 17: Tom R. Burns: The Sustainability Revolution: A Societal Paradigm Shift – Ethos, Innovative Agents, Social Transformation


501 C H A P T E R 1 7 The Sustainability Revolution: A Societal Paradigm Shift – Ethos, Innovative Agents, Social Transformation1 Tom R. Burns 1. The Crises of the Planetary Environment and the Emergence of the Sustainability Paradigm2 There is a substantial scientific consensus that the major global environmental threats are the consequences of human actions: overconsumption of precious re- sources (such as water, forests, fossil fuels), destruction of ecosystem services, un- sustainable land practices, the unabated release of toxic chemicals, and emissions driving climate disruption. Also recognized are the steps most scientists believe es- sential for addressing these threats: reducing greenhouse gases, establishing bio- sphere reserves, protecting endangered populations and species and other critical resources, regulating chemical releases, limiting human population growth, and regu- lating excessive consumption patterns, especially among the rich. Despite these widely held scientific views, the policy decisions needed to deal with these threats have been disappointing—arguably not up to the level necessitat- ed by the challenge. Meanwhile, the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) con- tinues unabated (and humanity still lacks a clear agreement or strategy for enforcea- ble reductions), species extinction rates accelerate to thousands of times “back- ground” extinction rates, and more and more toxic compounds accumulate from pole to pole. 1 This chapter is based on an open access article in Sustainability (2012, Vol. 4, 1118-1134) dis- tributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( © 2012 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Ba- sel, Switzerland. Earlier...

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