Environmental research on society (RES) lecture series

Le cycle de conférence RES (Recherches Environnementales sur la Société)


The RES (Environmental Research on Society) lecture series was published online in 2007 on the REEL-RGTE web-page. Due to technical problems, it went offline in 2011. It is now made available again here.

Below is a translation of the presentation of the lecture cycle, as published on line in 2007.

“An ecosystem that gets degraded, a species going extinct, a river being polluted, etc. – each environmental problem is the result of a particular system of social action the organisation of which (perceived or not, deliberate or not, “governed” or not) causes that degradation. Solving the environmental problem requires an action to change that particular de facto social organisation. Who can carry out such action? And how? These two questions are at the root of Strategic Environmental Management Analysis (SEMA), a framework intended to help explore under what conditions a given environmental problem may (or may not) be treated effectively.

Setting environmental effectiveness at the central reference from on which to base the analysis of situations leads the analyst (for instance, the researcher) to rediscover social organisation from the particular point of view of its consequences on concrete ecological systems and to embark on environmental research about society (rather than on social science research about the environment). This position and project of SEMA generates intense tensions – misunderstandings, conflict and confrontations – with some other approaches in social science. In many cases, these tensions are underpinned by some form of resistance to environmentally motivated change.

The research work we have been leading for more than ten years [written 2007] to found and equip an environmentally centred critical approach is confronted today with a three-fold challenge.

  • About the difficulty of critical perspectives which, after the “overhanging” critique of the 1970s, have been undergoing an eclipse of critique since the end of the 1980s. Today, the stake is to find new references for new, differently framed, critical approaches.
  • About the institutional foundations of research about the environment. What resistance there is to environmentally motivated change also deeply influences how research is organised and intimately linked with various sectors of society. Here the issue is to step out of the implicit, of the “unthought”, to make sure researchers take responsibility for the affiliations that exist between the perspectives they adopt and those of social actors about ecological issues.
  • About the various available theoretical framings used to analyse social-ecological issues. Theory is inseperable from action and our aim here is to shed light on the links that exist between how theoretical frameworks play out, the plurality of possible social actors’ perspectives, and the power plays in the organisational situations in which researchers operate.

These three challenges must be taken up jointly. After an initial lecture pointing to this task (RES 0, January 2004), I devoted to it a research effort (RES) that extended over a period of three years. From January 2005 to June 2007, I presented my questions and results in eleven lectures (each followed by a discussion with members of the RGTE research group). It is this series of informal lectures that is now available online to allow for the open, pluralistic, discussion the research shows is so necessary to environmental issues.

RES 0 (January 19, 2004). “Opening new critical space: clarifying, renewing and plurilazing the normative foundations of research”

RES 1 (January 27, 2005). “Environmental Research on Society: launch of an analytical and critical research”

RES 2 (March 10, 2005). “Public policy evaluation: an approach in terms of strategic management analysis”

RES 3 (June 10, 2005). “Intervenance and the analytical dimension of social science research: with what words can we speak about it? take responsibility for it?”

RES 4 (January 26, 2006). “Is agrocentrism a humanism? From the new anti-environmental rhetoric to a renewed expression of the desire for nature”.

RES 5 (March 16, 2006). “The French agricultural administration of ideas complex: sector based “unthought” and programmatic desorientation of environmental research”

RES 6 (May 11, 2006). “An analysis that is jointly environmental, managerial and strategic: a re-examination of the beginnings and the founding references of SEMA”

RES 7 (June 16, 2006). “The man who saw the bear who saw the man: ten years of interference-research about bears in the Haut-Béarn”

RES 8 (November 17, 2006). “The ecological polity: an order of worth for nature and environmentalists”

RES 9 (January 17, 2007). “Rahan in Karlsruhe: three questions on Bruno Latour’s Politics of Nature

RES 10 (February 2, 2007). “Hatroological projects, temptations and fantasizing: the gestion patrimoniale syndrom”

RES 11 (June 29, 2007). “Growing distrustful again: a new critical, pluralistic and dialogical compact (conclusion of the cycle)” “