make the most of Lovereading books of the month
Search our site
Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber Read the opening extract of the brand new Kathleen Barber book before its publication on 27/12/2017

Contested Natures by Phil Macnaghten, Professor John Urry


Contested Natures by Phil Macnaghten, Professor John Urry

Demonstrating that all notions of nature are inextricably entangled in different forms of social life, the text elaborates the many ways in which the apparently natural world has been produced from within particular social practices. These are analyzed in terms of different senses, different times and the production of distinct spaces, including the local, the national and the global. The authors emphasize the importance of cultural understandings of the physical world, highlighting the ways in which these have been routinely misunderstood by academic and policy discourses. They show that popular conceptions of, and attitudes to, nature are often contradictory and that there are no simple ways of prevailing upon people to `save the environment'.


. . .a rich discussion of the ways in which nature and the environment are constituted in specific social practices. . .a subtle, textured account of how natures are constructed, experienced, understood, and acted upon. -- Bruce Braun `This book is vigorously written and bursting with ideas, indeed, mirroring the book's own conclusions about the post-modern world it barely manages to govern its own content. Although it 'seeks to show that there is no singualr 'nature
as such, only by a diversity of contested of contested natures

.1), by the end it is clear we are really dealing with the problem of 'the environment', of a 'globable nature', the 'global environment', 'the planet', 'the globe

. 274-7)' - British Journal of Sociology

`This is a valubale collation and multi-disciplinary critical review of numerous concepts, positions and contexts surrounding different knowledges - elite, academic, popular - concerning nature. Ratmond Williams famously refers to nature, along with culture, as the most difficult words in the English language for which to establish `meaning

, Fontana, 1976). Macnaghten and Urry's book does justice to this difficulty in the complexity it reveals' - Journal of Rural Studies

`Contested Natures is an invaluable asset for a student of environmental politics and of human-nature relations. Its lucid and clear writing style combines with good summary introductions and conclusions to provide a clear and well-written introduction to the historiography of human-nature relations in the west' - Environmental Politics

`This book gives us a firm idea of what the sociology of another modernity is about. Finally we go beyond a reductionist view of nature. Quite astonishing: sociology of the environment becomes exciting' - Ulrich Beck, University of Munich

`Contested Natures is a path-breaking sociological analysis that provides a theoretical foundation to the practice of environmentalists around the world. It will be debated for years to come' - Manuel Castells, University of California, Berkeley

`A panoramic approach to our society's approach to nature, this book is a superb analysis of many of our modern discontents with our treatment of the natural environment. It deserves to become a classic' - Howard Newby, Vice-Chancellor, University of Southampton

`Steadfastly aligning their book within a social constructionist view of nature, the authors of Contested Nature set out to depict a sociology of the environment in which 'strictly speaking there is no such thing a natuture, only natures'. A series of almost stand-alone chapters each reveal different aspects of these ( contested ) natures...Individually the chapters are thorough and well-researched, and will provide a good resource for students and teachers alike..the book covers a great deal of ground and its support for Tim Ingold's idea of `dwellingness

marks it out as an important resource in debates about nature(s) within social science
' - The Geographical Journal

` This is, in many ways, an extraordinary and groundbreaking book. Of the currently available social scientific understandings of the environmental problem (more accurately, problems) it certainly has been seen as one of the most innovatory and path breaking. Furthermore, its excellence is a product of combining radically new theoretical insights with detailed empirical work' - Regional Studies

` To cut the bottom-line, this book is a must read. The endorsements on the book cover, which in this case do not mislead, describe it as a potential classic in the sociology of the environment. But, while centrally based in the discipline of sociology, the book deserves a wider readership for its insights into the relationship between nature and society....Through a mix of literature review and original research findings, MacNaghten and Urry present an unfolding analysis of the social construction of the environment (as opposed to more purely biological) dimensions of nature ....Overall, this is a broad ranging analysis of how contested natures arise. It is well written, full of detail and interesting throughout

`There is good and useful material in this book. It should stimulate anyone interested in how people construe the environment, act within it or seek to guide the actions of others. And after all, environmentalism is important politically and socially, and pervaded many aspects of the lives of the people we study. This book is a useful sketch of environmentalism as a political and cultural fact of life in England' - JRAI

About the Author

Phil Macnaghten is a human geographer with broad interests in the governance of science and technology, responsible innovation, the sociology of the environment, deliberative methodology and discourse analysis. His early research focused on the cultural dimensions of environmental policy and their intersection with everyday practice. He developed a form of engaged scholarship, combining conceptual work with critical policy development in the domains of rural policy, sustainability policy, technology policy, forestry policy and environmental behaviour change. This work has been taken forward in recent years through an Institute of Advanced Studies project: 'New storylines for living with environmental change: citizens' perspectives' (2011 - 2012). More recently, Phil has worked on the governance of emerging technology and societal engagement. This includes the ESRC study on nanotechnology and upstream public engagement (2004 - 2006), and the European DEEPEN project (Deepening Ethical Engagement and Participation in Emerging Technologies) (2006 - 2009). The DEEPEN project constituted Europe's leading consortium on the ethical dimensions of emerging nanotechnologies and their implications for civil society, governance and scientific practice. The research contributed to the philosophy that underpins two European initiatives: (1) the European Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research Initiative and its emphasis on responsible development and anticipatory governance; and (2) the Responsible Research and Innovation Initiative and its emphasis on embedding broader societal goals into the practice of science itself. The research further contributed to UK national policy initiatives on synthetic biology, geoengineering and responsible innovation. This work has led to an on-going research project for the UK research councils designing a 'draft framework for responsible innovation'. Phil was Founding Director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR) (2006 - 2008), a Demos Associate (2004 - 2008), a Visiting Professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil (2009), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (2008 - ), a member of the UK's EPSRC's Societal Issues Panel (2010 - 2011), a member of EPSRC's Strategic Advisory Network (2011 - ) and chair of the Stagegate panel of the RCUK-funded Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) project. He has recently co-authored (with Richard Owen) a comment piece for Nature, 'Good governance for geoengineering'. His main research in recent years has been in advocating and developing a new paradigm for the social sciences, the new mobilities paradigm

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

30th March 1998


Phil Macnaghten, Professor John Urry

More books by Phil Macnaghten, Professor John Urry
Author 'Like for Like'


SAGE Publications Inc


320 pages


Sociology & anthropology
Social impact of environmental issues



I recommend Lovereading because you get honest reviews on a whole range of genres-there's something for everyone. It's the only site I need.

Sian Spinney

It's the first site that I visit when deciding on the next set of books to buy. A particular treat is being able to download an extract.

Tessa Olson

Lovereading are lovely people who send me lovely books. What's not to love?

Gavin Dimmock

With literary excellence, humour and drama, Lovereading's got value and is a real stress-calmer!

Siobhan McDowell

It's a lively, independent website with reviews, recommendations and more - with a huge range of books available to buy in all formats.

Alison Layland

The selections are so varied and the reader reviews are so helpful. A fantastic website for those who love books.

Ann Quintilla

Lovereading is an amazing place to be, the website is wonderful and to me if I'm sad I'll go here and it cheers me up!

Sophia Upton

Insightful reader reviews and unbiased recommendations. I don't know how I chose books before Lovereading! An essential for all book lovers.

Sarah Harper