Crossing the ‘great divide’ in practice: theoretical approaches for sociology in interdisciplinary environmental research

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18 Scopus citations


Ideological and intellectual separation between nature and society continues to limit our understanding of the world and impair our ability to address critical environmental problems. An increasing number of environmental and natural resource issues now require an integrative interdisciplinary approach. Using theoretical grounded frameworks and tools, sociologists have an important role to play in this work. This paper examines several theoretical approaches to cross the nature–society divide and guide sociologists participating interdisciplinary environmental research. These approaches include ecological Marxism, actor-network theory (ANT), social–biophysical stratification, and resilience theory. The paper examines specific strengths and shortcomings associated with each approach, areas for future application and development, and how each approach may be applied to support interdisciplinary environmental research. In addition, an example is used to illustrate how a specific theoretical approach can be applied to create a conceptual framework to guide interdisciplinary research. This paper aims to further the development and elaboration of nature–society theorization and to support sociologists who seek theoretical tools to apply to interdisciplinary environmental research projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-131
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2016


  • environment
  • interdisciplinary
  • nature–society
  • research
  • theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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