Int. J. of Sustainable Society   »   2010 Vol.2, No.1



Title: Societal choices for sustainability – an evolutionary perspective


Author: Ralf Brand


Address: Manchester Architecture Research Centre, School of Environment and Development, The University of Manchester, Humanities Bridgeford St. Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK


Abstract: This article investigates the implications of an evolutionary perspective to the discourse on sustainability. For this purpose, Richard Dawkins' concept of 'memes' – a systematic analogy between the evolution of species to the evolution of ideas and artefacts – is introduced along with recent further developments, namely, by John Langrish who disaggregates memes into smaller and conceptually more manageable units: recipemes, selectemes and explanemes. This article highlights the theoretical and practical implications of these approaches for the sustainability discourse. Among the most interesting themes is the memetic derivation of the concept of coevolution between the social and the technical that has been discussed in the STS literature for a number of years. In a final section, this article presents a memetic interpretation of a strong sustainability concept and uncovers its impracticality, thus highlighting the necessity for ethical and political action.


Keywords: behavioural change; coevolution; efficiency; evolution; memes; memetics; societal choices; sufficiency; sustainability; technical fixes evolutionary perspective; Dawkins; Langrish; recipemes; selectemes; explanemes; STS; ethical action; political action; sustainable society; sustainable development.


DOI: 10.1504/IJSSOC.2010.030559


Int. J. of Sustainable Society, 2010 Vol.2, No.1, pp.1 - 16


Available online: 21 Dec 2009



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