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Environmental Values

Bruno Latour and the Ontological Dissolution of Nature in the Social Sciences: A Critical Review

Jacques Pollini

Environmental Values 22 (2013): 25-42. doi: 10.3197/096327113X13528328798192


The concept of nature is central in any reflection about the relationships between humans and their environment. It is frequently under attack, which created a divide in academia that might partly explain the science war of the 1990s and that is still latent. This article is an attempt to make a step ahead in this debate. It responds to the anti-essentialist critique of nature formulated by Bruno Latour in his influential book Politiques de la nature. It shows that nature as an objective nonsocial reality must be conceptualised and studied if the relationships between humans and their environment are to be properly understood and managed. It proposes a definition of the word nature that is compatible with both an essentialist view of nature and the nonseparation of nature and culture. Eventually, it argues that such a return to an essentialist view of nature does not imply the use of nature as a benchmark to measure morality.


Nature, social constructionism, critical realism, Bruno Latour, epistemology

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

The Ways That Nature Matters: The World and the Earth in the Thought of Hannah Arendt.Anne Chapman

Reconciling Realism and Constructivism in Environmental Ethics. Richard J. Evanoff

Finding Value in Nature. Thomas Hill Jr.

Does the Idea of Wilderness Need a Defence?. Paul M. Keeling

The Silence of Nature. Steven Vogel

From a 'Sociology of Nature' to Environmental Sociology: Beyond Social Construction. Graham Woodgate and Micael Redclift

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Changes Needed. Clive L. Spash

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