Inequality, Democracy, and the Environment

336 pages

8 tables

December, 2015

ISBN: 9781479843794



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Liam Downey is Associate Professor of Sociology and Faculty Associate for Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

All books by Liam Downey

Winner, American Sociological Association Section on Environment and Technology Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award

The world currently faces several severe social and environmental crises, including economic under-development, widespread poverty and hunger, lack of safe drinking water for one-sixth of the world’s population, deforestation, rapidly increasing levels of pollution and waste, dramatic declines in soil fertility and biodiversity, and global warming.  Inequality, Democracy, and the Environment sheds light on the structural causes of these and other social and environmental crises, highlighting in particular the key role that elite-controlled organizations, institutions, and networks play in creating these crises.  
Liam Downey focuses on four topics—globalization, agriculture, mining, and U.S. energy and military policy—to show how organizational and institutional inequality and elite-controlled organizational networks produce environmental degradation and social harm. He focuses on key institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Military and the World Trade Organization to show how specific policies are conceived and enacted in order to further elite goals. Ultimately, Downey lays out a path for environmental social scientists and environmentalists to better understand and help solve the world’s myriad social and environmental crises.  Inequality, Democracy and the Environment presents a passionate exposé of the true role inequality, undemocratic institutions and organizational power play in harming people and the environment. 


  • “Downey presents important perspectives about inequality, militarism, and democracy. This important addition to the environment sociology literature should promote serious consideration of the macrostructuralist approach to social problems in general.


  • “It is very well written. More importantly, it illuminates the centrality of elite-controlled mechanisms.”

    Political Science Quarterly