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Privileged access, privileged accounts: Toward a socially structured theory of resources and discourses

  • Author(s): Freudenburg, Wm R
  • et al.
Abstract

Environmental harms involve a "double diversion" - two forms of privilege that deserve greater attention. The first involves disproportionality, or the privileged diversion of rights/resources: Contrary to common assumptions, much environmental damage is not economically "necessary" - instead, it represents privileged access to the environment. It is made possible in part by the second diversion - the diversion of attention, or distraction - largely through taken-for-granted or privileged accounts, which are rarely questioned, even in leftist critiques. Data show that, rather than producing advanced materials, major polluters tend to be inefficient producers of low-value commodities, and rather than being major employers, they can have emissions-to-jobs ratios a thousand times worse than the economy as a whole. Instead of simply focusing on overall/average levels of environmental problems, sociologists also need to examine disproportionalities, analyzing the socially structured nature Of environmental and discursive privileges. Doing so can offer important opportunities for insights, not just about nature, but also about the nature of power, and about the power of the naturalized.

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