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Module DXX-3017:
GoverningSociety & Environment

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones

Overall aims and purpose

This module looks at changing approaches to governance that have occurred over the last fifty years. We consider changes in both social and environmental governance – discussing for example, welfare reform and public service provision, as well particular aspects of natural resource management, like water privatisation. We focus in on the rise of what has been described as a ‘neoliberal approach’ to governance, which is associated with an increasing emphasis upon market-led approaches, a rise in privatization and the devolution of controls and responsibility away from central government. The module explores the history and rationales behind these changes, along with the consequences. Here we explore a range of global case-studies, seeking to evaluate what forms of governance are most effective, and on what terms. For example, is nationalised or privatised, or community-led, provision of services more effective, equitable and environmentally sound? We will discuss the changing role of the State and non-State actors, alongside the different forms of power and social behavioural changes that have become evident across society. Resistance, opposition and alternatives to such changes will be also be covered – including social movements in Europe and Latin America. The module will introduce students to key concepts from social-theory and political-ecology, enabling them to better link questions of social, political and environmental change.

Course content

Key topics will include: • Characteristics of neoliberal governance and ‘Neoliberalism’ • Different rationales for changing approaches to governance (across social and environmental issues) • Different approaches to securing power • Changing social norms and behaviours • The interface with environmental change, governance and politics. • Key concepts from social theory and political ecology to explore the above

Case studies to explore the different dimensions and impacts of governance change including: • Privatisation – of resources such as water, energy and social housing • Welfare reform • Deregulation and devolvement of State power and responsibilities (e.g. for environmental protection) • Commodification and the creation of new markets e.g. ‘ecosystem goods and services’ • The rising influence of the financial sector in new areas (e.g. food markets and agricultural securities). • New enclosures – including forms of contemporary land grabbing. • Resistance – how and why neoliberalisation is being contested and rejected.

Assessment Criteria


In addition to the above, evidence of substantial reading from a variety of sources (e.g. books, journal articles and research reports), and advanced knowledge of recent developments in the subject. Advanced critical evaluation of concepts and case studies. Elegant and flowing presentation, with flair for subject.


Be able to demonstrate adequate knowledge of the different forms of social and environmental governance.. Presentation of appropriate examples to demonstrate the political-economic, socio-cultural and environmental processes involved and their impacts upon society and the environment. Basic application of key concepts from social theory and political-ecology to evaluate relevant case-studies.


Clear understanding and thorough knowledge of the different forms of social and environmental governance. Highly structured, accurate and relevant descriptions of appropriate examples to demonstrate the political-economic, socio-cultural and environmental processes involved and their impacts upon society and the environment. Critical evaluation of concepts and case studies. High standard of presentation. Evidence of reading and knowledge of recent developments in the subject.

Learning outcomes

  1. Identify the characteristics of, and reasons for, changing approaches to social and environmental governance, since the early 1980s.

  2. Describe the major imperatives, benefits and constraints of a ‘neoliberal approach’ to governance.

  3. Critically evaluate appropriate case studies to demonstrate changing approaches to social and environmental governance.

  4. Apply key concepts from social theory and political-ecology to evaluate the impacts of changing approaches to governance on society and the environment.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

Coursework Assessment


Group presentation




Teaching and Learning Strategy


6 x 2 hr seminars

Private study

Private and guided self-study


1 x 2 hr workshops


9 x 2 hour lectures


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Awareness of the concepts of spatial and temporal scale in understanding processes and relationships.
  • Appreciation of the reciprocal nature of human-environmental relationships.
  • Apply appropriate techniques for presenting spatial and/or temporal trends in data.
  • Preparation of effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules


Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: