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SP50333: The politics and practice of sustainability

[Page last updated: 04 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 12 [equivalent to 24 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 240
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Team Project (CW 35%)
  • Individual Project Diary- Essay (CW 65%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: To generate critical awareness of the ideological and practical politics of sustainability
To equip students to undertake critical enquiry in the political economy and social analysis of sustainability
To enable students to interrogate effectively evidence claims regarding the achievement of sustainability
To enable students to operate in a cross-disciplinary context, to understand interconnections between human and environmental issues at a range of scales and to be able to communicate these effectively.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of the unit students will:
* Demonstrate critical understanding of the politics of different framings of sustainability at global to local levels;
* Be able to discuss critically key conceptual approaches, analytical debates, and methodological issues concerning the politics and practice of sustainability;
* Be able to interrogate effectively different forms of evidence claims;
* Be able to apply this knowledge to the empirical analysis of specific contexts and issues;
* Be able to work effectively in a team and present research in a visual form.

* Ability to read and discuss critically key texts (Taught/Facilitated)
* Ability to integrate theory and apply this in discussion of practical cases (T/F/A)
* Ability to manage one's own and others' work effectively as part of a team (T/F)
* Ability to reflect critically on one's own experience and learning (T/F)
* Effective oral and visual communication (poster presentations) (T/F/A)
* Ability to select, summarise & synthesise information across different disciplines(T/F/A)

Content: This unit critically explores the ideological and practical politics of sustainability. We investigate different perspectives on: the underlying causes of the sustainability issues we are currently confronting, what can be done about them, and who is responsible for doing it. We will explore the range of methods used to advance evidence about sustainability. We will probe issues related to the political economy of production and consumption, including the actors that drive it and the approaches to channelling it.

Indicative content:
Varieties of environmentalism
State regulation and international institutions
Civil society, NGOs, and transnational environmental activism
Market solutions and business power
Climate change and climate governance
Individual preferences and collective action
Governing the Anthropocene

Assessment - Class presentation of team project posters; Individual essay

Issues covered may include: roads� and infrastructure, energy, GMOs, climate change, mining and extractive industries, forest rights, green transitions, conservation and development, community based resource management, sustainable� consumption and wellbeing, corporate social responsibility, and the Anthropocene.

Learning approach
The unit will take an active learning approach, involving work in pairs and small groups, participatory activities and a team project.�  Teamwork will be supported by course convenors.

Programme availability:

SP50333 is a Designated Essential Unit on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • THSP-AFM22 : MSc International Development, Social Justice and Sustainability
  • THSP-AWM22 : MSc International Development, Social Justice and Sustainability
  • THSP-APM22 : MSc International Development, Social Justice and Sustainability

SP50333 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
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