The climate crisis as a catalyst for emancipatory transformation: An examination of the possible

Diana Stuart, Ryan Gunderson, Brian Petersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In 2018, a wave of climate change activism emerged in response to calls from scientists for urgent, unprecedented, and far-reaching changes to address the climate crisis. Three social movements, Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future, and the Sunrise Movement, have received the most attention and continue to grow. Synthesizing and integrating Erik Olin Wright’s theories of social transformation, the authors apply Wright’s work to analyze these movements and identify barriers and opportunities moving forward. While significant forces of social reproduction continue to shape politics and constrain climate action, unintended social consequences combined with new social movements are ripening conditions for transformation. The authors identify non-reformist reforms, a forceful form of symbiotic transformation pushed forward by social movements, as the most likely strategy to address the climate crisis and catalyze broader emancipatory transformation. While climate movements face significant opposition, they continue to grow and create a stronger trajectory for deep social change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-456
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Capitalism
  • climate change
  • emancipatory social science
  • future
  • social change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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