“Greening Bourdieu” – Martin Fritz and Dennis Eversberg speak at the “Climate Change and Social Sciences” conference at Freie Universität Berlin, 2-4 February 2023

Greening Bourdieu. How eco-social mentalities help to understand social and political conflicts over climate change.

An important aspect in understanding the political and social configurations of the current societal conflicts over climate change are the mentalities that exist among the general population. For example, the growth paradigm is deeply engrained in the ways many people think about how to organize our economy and society. Human-nature-relations are often shaped by domination and control. There are people who are uninterested in social and ecological issues, and others are mainly concerned about themselves and their private issues. While such dispositions make it hard to find political solutions for climate change that are supported by a majority, there is also ecological and caring thinking, mentalities that emerge from recognizing the dependence of society from nature and the relatedness of all beings. These could provide a fertile ground for co-creating the highly demanded social-ecological transformation. All such different mentalities feed into social conflicts, tensions, cleavages and commonalities between classes and into political struggles as they are strongly shaped by social experiences and social positions.
This paper seeks to provide an holistic understanding of societal conflicts over climate change and contribute to the conference theoretically and empirically. Combining Bourdieu’s relational sociology with the theory of society-nature relations, we identify eco-social mentalities and investigate how they are connected to social inequalities and socio-cultural differences. We use data from a representative multi-mode survey conducted in Germany 2021/22 that gathered information about respondent’s social and ecological attitudes, preferences and values, their social status and position. Applying dimension reduction methods such as factor-, correspondence- and cluster analysis the eco-social mentalities that currently exist in Germany are discovered and plotted in the space of social positions. The result is a complex picture of the eco-social landscape of Germany where the links between mentalities, social inequalities and social differences appear. The picture also reveals four dimensions of political and social conflict over the questions whether and how a social-ecological transformation should take place in Germany.