Paradox as bedrock: Social systems theory and the ungrounding of literary environmentalism in Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire

Hannes Bergthaller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Environmentalism is caught up in a paradox: it wishes to speak on behalf of the whole constituted by society and its biophysical environment, but it can only do so in the terms provided by society itself; it argues that humans need to recognize themselves as a part of nature, but the very possibility of this argument is predicated on society standing apart from nature. This chapter argues that Niklas Luhmann's theory of social systems provides a theoretical angle from which the paradox of holism can be understood not as a defect of environmentalist discourse, but rather as its necessary and enabling condition. The development of ecocriticism as a discipline is described in terms of successive attempts to elaborate on, but also to evade and obscure this paradox; Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire is presented as a literary text which has posed difficulties to ecocritical readings precisely because it seeks to confront it directly.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology
Publisherde Gruyter
Pages105-122
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783110314595
ISBN (Print)9783110308372
Publication statusPublished - 2016 May 10

Keywords

  • Communication
  • Edward Abbey
  • Functional differentiation
  • Modernity
  • Niklas Luhmann
  • Paradox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

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