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Studying Power with the Social-Ecological System Framework

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Epstein, Graham; Bennett, Abigail; Gruby, Rebecca; Acton, Leslie; Nenadovic, Mateja
Conference: Workshop on the Ostrom Workshop 5
Location: Indiana University, Bloomington
Conf. Date: June 18-21, 2014
Date: 2014
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/9401
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Subject(s): social-ecological systems
institutional analysis
Abstract: "A long-standing divide exists among social scientists regarding power and its effects on the sustainability of social-ecological systems (SESs). In some disciplines, such as political ecology, power is given a place of prominence and seen as having a significant impact on socialecological processes and outcomes. In contrast commons theory, a new institutionalist strand of environmental research, deliberately sidelines power to focus on the relationship between institutions and sustainability. Historically, there has been little constructive interaction between these power-centered and institution-centered approaches. Therefore we apply the SES framework, a tool explicitly designed to confront interdisciplinary puzzles, to ask whether it can be used to bridge the gap between these two traditions of social-ecological research. The chapter outlines a systematic approach to integrate diverse conceptualizations of power with the SES framework and then applies this to study the relationship between power and social-ecological outcomes. The analysis suggests that the SES framework is a promising tool for social science integration, but also that important questions remain concerning the validity of classifications, measurement, and statistical tests. We conclude with a call for greater interdisciplinary attention to questions of power with the SES framework to better understand its normative and positive implications for sustainable and equitable governance of SESs."

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