MSc Environmental Governance
Year of entry: 2021
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Course unit details:
Nature Society & Social Power
|Unit level||FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This course examines the interrelationship between humans and nature, with a particular emphasis on the how social power relations produce and change socio-physical conditions. The course starts from the premise that nature and society are not separate. They are mutually intertwined and co-evolving. The course will draw on a variety of critical theoretical perspectives and illustrate the argument with a series of case studies. The course will consist in 10 2-hour lectures and 10 1-hour seminars (reading sessions, video and documentary presentations, discussion sessions, etc…)
- To theorize how the social and the physical world interact;
- To understand critically the entanglements of social and physical conditions under
- To provide a critical review of the socio-ecological dynamics of capitalism;
- To offer insight in the processes through which particular environmental conditions
come about and are changed;
- To explore the key actors that shape environmental activities and their spatial
configurations and outcomes;
- To show how socio-environmental processes are also political processes;
- To illustrate these processes by means of concrete historical-geographical examples.
By the end of the course unit, you should be able to:
- Understand the key concepts and theories that underpin political ecology;
- Be familiar with an outline of historical-geographical materialist understandings of
- Be able to think critically about the relationships between people and their
- Understand the political significance of socio-ecological processes, problems, and
- Be able to start your own research project on socio-nature interactions and dynamics
Week 1 Introduction – Socializing Nature
Week 2 Circuits of Capital: The Socio-Ecological Dynamics of Capital
Circulation – Part 1
Week 3 Circuits of Capital: The Socio-Ecological Dynamics of Capital Circulation – Part 2
Week 4 a) The Production of Nature
b) The Power of Water: Karl Wittfogel’s thesis
Week 5 Reading Week
Week 6 Cities, Nature, and Social Power: The Urbanization of Nature
Week 7 Nature and Political Projects: The Contested Production of Environments I: The example of Spain
Week 8 Nature and Political Projects: The Contested Production of
Environments II: The example of Spain (cont’d)
The example of Sicily
Week 9 Reading Week
Week 10 The Sustainability Paradox: a political-ecological perspective
Week 11 Saving Nature(s) … or the End of Politics: Ecology as the New &n
Transferable skills and personal qualities
During this course unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:
- Critical thinking and reflection;
- An ability to assess the merits of contrasting theories and explanations;
- An ability to relate theoretical argument with empirical evidence, including the
construction of theoretically informed real-life research;
- An ability to translate theory into politics;
- Motivation and self-directed learning;
- Awareness of your responsibility as a global citizen.
One two hour unseen examination with essay-style questions (to be chosen from a total of 6 question) (50% of total assessment)
Students prepare a 2500 word essay on a theme to be chosen from a list of titles that will be made available at the beginning of the Semester. The title will relate to the course material and permit students to explore specific themes either more theoretically or by means of exploring a specific case study (50%).
For Master’s Students
The assessment will be 100% based on a 3500-word essay on theme decided in consultation with the course convener.
Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:
- extensive verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities
- verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours;
- detailed written feedback on the coursework assignments;
- verbal feedback on examinations provided in academic advisor meetings.
Braun B., Castree N (Eds.) (1998) Remaking Reality. Routledge, London.
Harvey, D. (1985). The Geo-Politics of Capitalism. In D. Gregory & J. Urry (Eds.), Social Relations and Spatial Structures (pp. 128-163). London: Macmillan.
Harvey D. (1981) Limits to Capital. Blackwell, Oxford
Harvey D. (1996). Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. Oxford: Blackwell.
Heynen N., Kaika M., and Swyngedouw E. (2006) (Eds.) In the Nature of Cities – Urban Political Ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism, Routledge, London and New York
Lefebvre H. ((1974)1991) The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
Robins Paul (2011) Political Ecology – A Critical Introduction. Wiley-Blackwell.
Smith N. (1984). Uneven Development: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
Swyngedouw E (2000) “The Marxian Alternative – Historical Geographical Materialism and the Political Economy of Capitalism”, in Barnes T., Sheppard E. (Eds.) Reader in Economic Geography, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 41-59.
Swyngedouw E. (2004) Flows of Power – Water and the Political Ecology of Urbanisation in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Oxford: University Press .
Swyngedouw E (2004) “Scaled Geographies. Nature, Place, and the Politics of Scale”, in McMaster R., Sheppard E. (Eds.) Scale and Geographic Inquiry: Nature, Society and Method. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford and Cambridge, Mass., pp. 129-153.
Swyngedouw E. (2010) “Trouble with Nature – Ecology as the New Opium for the People”, in Hillier, J. and P. Healey (Eds.) Conceptual Challenges for Planning Theory. Ashgate, Farnham, pp. 299-320.
Swyngedouw E. (2012) (with Ian Cook) “Cities, social cohesion and the environment: towards a future research agenda”, Urban Studies 49(9), pp. 1938 - 1958
Swyngedouw E. (2015) Liquid Power: Contested Hydro-Modernities in 20th Century Spain. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Swyngedouw E. (2015) “Depoliticized Environments and the Promises of the Anthropocene”, in Bryant R. (ed.) International Handbook of Political Ecology. E. Elgar, London, pp. 131-145.
Wittfogel K. (1957) Oriental Despotism. Yale University Press/Oxford University Press
Environment and Planning A
Capitalism, Nature, Socialism
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
Transactions of the IBG
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Henrik Ernstson||Unit coordinator|
|Erik Swyngedouw||Unit coordinator|