Sustainable Development, Sociology and UK Higher Education

Matthew Smith*, John Donnelly, Andrew Parker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Karl Marx, unlike Max Weber, believed that the main purpose of studying society was to change it. If we follow Marx’s reasoning, then surely, at a time of repellent levels of inequality connected with environmental exploitation and destruction, sociology should be fundamentally concerned with sustainable development (SD). However, what this concern might look like may be less clear. One of the authors of this chapter, when introducing the theme of sustainable development as part of a second-year undergraduate sociology course, uses the alternative interpretations of the term ‘sustainability’ by himself and Margaret Thatcher as indicative of the problems presented in trying to understand, let alone engender, SD. If we add to this the similarly contested terrain of sociology, we face a daunting prospect; there seems to be every chance for the authors to slip past each other as we try to find some purchase within the vast hangars of both sociology and SD. In seeking to avoid this, it is inevitable that this chapter does not provide a comprehensive picture. Instead, it aims to reflect upon the ways in which the discipline of sociology can intersect with the broader challenge that higher education (HE) faces in seeking to practice and engender SD.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Sustainability Curriculum
Subtitle of host publicationFacing the Challenge in Higher Education
EditorsCedric Cullingford, John Blewitt
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781849773287
ISBN (Print)9781853839498, 9781853839481
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2004


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainable Development, Sociology and UK Higher Education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this