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Anne Jerneck

Anne Jerneck

Professor, Docent

Anne Jerneck

Theoretical and Methodological Pluralism in Sustainability Science


  • Anne Jerneck
  • Lennart Olsson


  • Takashi Mino
  • Shogo Kudo

Summary, in English

Sustainability science is an integrative scientific field embracing not only complementary but also contradictory approaches and perspectives for dealing with an array of sustainability challenges.

In this chapter we distinguish between pluralism and unification as two main and distinctly different approaches to knowledge integration in sustainability science. To avoid environmental determinism, functionalism, or overly firm reliance on rational choice theory, we have reason to promote pluralism as a way to better tackle sustainability challenges. In particular we emphasise two main benefits of taking a pluralist approach in research: it opens up for collaboration, and ensures a more theoretically informed understanding of society.

After a brief introduction to how we interpret the field of sustainability science, we discuss ontology, epistemology and ways of understanding society based on social science theory. We make three contributions. First, we identify important reasons for the incommensurability between the social and natural sciences, and propose remedies for how to overcome some of the difficulties in integrative research. Second, by suggesting a frame that we call ‘social fields and natural systems’ we show how sustainability science will benefit from drawing more profoundly on – and thus more adequately incorporate – a social science understanding of society. As such, the frame is a foundation for pluralism. Third, by suggesting a new theoretical typology, we show how sustainability visions and pathways are associated with particular theoretical and methodological perspectives in geography, political science, and sociology; and how that matters for research and politics addressing sustainability challenges. The typology can be used as a thinking tool to frame and reframe research.


  • LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)

Publishing year







Framing in Sustainability Science : Theoretical and Practical Approaches

Document type

Book chapter


Springer Nature


  • Political Science




  • ISBN: 978-981-13-9061-6
  • ISBN: 978-981-13-9060-9