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Greening the Globe: World Society and Environmental Change

  • Provides a major new explanation of social change for environmental sociology drawing on the world society perspective
  • Creates a new agenda for world society scholars by extending the theory to explain social change in empirical outcomes
  • Examines international efforts to address environmental problems including climate change, ozone depletion, and hazardous waste disposal

By: Ann Hironaka(Author)

216 pages, 6 b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Oct 2014 | #218397 | ISBN-13: 9781107031548
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £71.99 $93/€79 approx

About this book

Recent decades have seen a rapid expansion of environmental activity in the world, including the signing of a growing number of environmental treaties and the formation of international organizations like the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Greening the Globe employs world society theory (aka world polity theory or sociological institutionalism) to explore the origins and consequences of international efforts to address environmental problems. Existing scholarship seems paradoxical: case studies frequently criticize treaties and regulatory structures as weak and ineffective, yet statistical studies find improvements in environmental conditions. Greening the Globe addresses this paradox by articulating a bee-swarm model of social change. International institutions rarely command the power or resources to directly impose social change. Nevertheless, they have recourse via indirect mechanisms: setting agendas, empowering various pro-environmental agents, and propagating new cultural meanings and norms. As a result, world society generates social change even if formal institutional mechanisms and sanctions are weak.


Advance praise:

"Greening the Globe applies the world society perspective to understand the emergence and institutionalization of an international environmental regime. But Hironaka goes beyond policy diffusion to examine actual changes in environmental outcomes. This is a must-read for scholars interested in global social change dynamics regardless of their theoretical orientation."
- Francisco Ramirez, Stanford University, California

"Hironaka's insight is that institutionally based change occurs not through big wins – bold policy shifts that mandate dramatic behavioral adjustment – but by incremental shifts in the nature of the game as small policy interventions, regulatory actions, new actors and new social definitions coalesce around broad policy objectives and a meaningfully changed 'social definition of reality'. This is a compelling analysis that jibes with many observations of the weakness and failure of specific policies combined with long-range shifts in legitimate values, actors and behaviors."
- David Strang, Cornell University, New York

"In this innovative and comprehensive work Professor Hironaka brings clarity to world society processes by pairing creative theory construction with well-crafted case studies of global environmental politics. Her meticulous study brings promising implications for global governance organization and environmental policy. A game changer for how world society theory is understood and discussed."
- George M. Thomas, Arizona State University

"With keen insight and a sure hand, Ann Hironaka provides a revealing guide to understanding the profound cultural and institutional processes underlying the global environmental regime. Conventional power and interest explanations of the regime will not do; Hironaka opens new theoretical territory, showing both the strengths and the limitations of institutional analysis. Greening the Globe takes global institutions seriously."
- John Boli, Emory University, Atlanta


1. World society and social change
2. The origins of the global environmental regime
3. Institutional structure
4. Agents
5. Cultural meaning
6. The limits of international institutions
7. Conclusion

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Ann Hironaka is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. She studies environmental sociology, politics, and war from a global perspective. Her research examines the historical emergence of the global environmental regime and its impact on national policy and environmental practices around the world. Her work on environmentalism has appeared in the American Sociological Review, International Organization, and Social Forces. She is also a member of the American Sociological Association Task Force on Climate Change. Hironaka's first book, Neverending Wars (2005), examines the intractable civil wars of the contemporary era and the role of the international community in perpetuating these conflicts.

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