University Of Tasmania

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Interpretations of sustainability beyond the middle class

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 09:09 authored by Kim BeasyKim Beasy
Critical discourses of sustainability challenge modern rhetoric of economic growth and challenge current modes of social development. Yet sustainability discourses are shaped predominantly by the perspectives and interests of middle class, tertiary educated, urban policy makers or environmentalists and have insufficiently engaged people beyond these cohorts, even in the advanced-capitalist societies where they have originated. This paper shares findings from a study that investigated how people who are not strongly engaged with sustainability discourses understand and engage with many of the underlying concerns that animate these discourses from the context of their situated, everyday experiences. This is important information for sustainability educators, because it challenges dominant ideas of what sustainability is and offers new and alternate ways of engaging different groups of people in actions for sustainability. Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, field and capital were used to inform the research design that employed focus groups and interviews with people from a range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and life stages in Tasmania, Australia. The findings provide insight into the ways in which people who are disengaged from discourses of sustainability may be actively engaged in practices of sustainability which may provide practical guidance for environmentalists and policy makers concerning how current discourses of sustainability reflect specific social contexts and experiences.


Publication title

Australian Journal of Environmental Education








Faculty of Education


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Cambridge University Press

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Social class and inequalities