Re-imagining the scales, dimensions, and fields of socio-ecological sustainability

O'Reilly, Dermot Gerald and Allen, Stephen and Reedy, Patrick (2018) Re-imagining the scales, dimensions, and fields of socio-ecological sustainability. British Journal of Management, 29 (2). pp. 220-234. ISSN 1467-8551

PDF (Reimagining_the_scales_of_sustainability_BJM_Accptdvrsn (1))
Reimagining_the_scales_of_sustainability_BJM_Accptdvrsn_1_.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (839kB)


This paper critiques the two-dimensional (hierarchical–spatial) focus on scales evident in management and organizational studies, and the capitalist ecological modernization (CEM) paradigm that dominates current corporate and governmental approaches to sustainability. Our contribution is to propose a more complex and nuanced understanding of scale, which incorporates social, political, temporal and material dimensions. We propose a heuristic framework from Harvey, in order to evaluate different paradigms of socio-ecological organizing: specifically, the dominant paradigm of CEM against a social ecology (SE) alternative. We explore the divergent conceptions of, and relative importance placed upon, concepts of scale, grain, level and field in these two contrasting paradigms. Our analysis highlights the limitations and contradictions of the CEM expression of scale, namely its predominant focus on measurement and expansion through ‘economies of scale’. By offering an alternative conception of the links between scales, grains, levels and social fields, we show how this enriches the conceptualization of potential forms of socio-ecological organizing and opens up the potential for alternative modes of organizing socio-ecological sustainability.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
British Journal of Management
Uncontrolled Keywords:
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
12 Jan 2018 09:10
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 05:20