Article by Daniel Diner ’14

Assistant Professor of Sociology Hannah Holleman has received the 2013 Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Environment and Technology. The biennial award, presented at the ASA’s Annual Meeting, recognizes the top publication in environmental sociology. It went to Holleman and her co-author, the University of Oregon’s John Bellamy Foster, for their paper entitled “Weber and the Environment: Classical Foundations for a Post-Exemptionalist Sociology,” published in the American Journal of Sociology in May of 2012.


Assistant Professor of Sociology Hannah Holleman

The paper regards the “post-exemptionalist” sociological-environmental paradigm that grew in the 1970s as a response to the “human-exemptionalist” paradigm. The earlier paradigm disregarded natural-environmental concerns, on the assumption that human beings in advanced societies had evolved past the point at which such concerns affected them. The rise of the new paradigm caused a rift between environmental sociology and broader sociological traditions, as the classical authors, to whom these traditions frequently turn, were seen as not offering much insight into how ecological crises impact modern social and economic processes. Foster and Holleman’s paper seeks to help repair the rift by arguing that this assumption about the classical authors results from the classics being read through the wrong lens. The paper explains in particular how Max Weber (1864–1920), an influential German sociologist, philosopher and political economist, actually offered sophisticated and substantial input on environmental issues.

The ASA is the world’s largest organization of professional sociologists and has hosted its Annual Meeting since its inception in 1905. The ASA website describes the meeting as an “opportunity for professionals involved in the scientific study of sociology to share knowledge and new directions in research and practice.”

Holleman notes that her acceptance of the award at the August 2013 meeting has helped “put [Amherst] on the map for environmental sociology” and has resulted in “several people asking about our program in this respect.”  

This is Holleman’s second year on the Amherst faculty. She is currently teaching “Footprints on the Earth: The Environmental Consequences of Modernity” and “Financial Crises and the Future of Democracy.” Her research interests concern linking social and ecological theory and empirical research as a contribution toward further developing the framework for scholarly efforts in environmental sociology and political economy. She is working on a paper about challenges in water resource management in Oklahoma, as part of a broader book project about how drought and other water problems in the American Southwest may be the result of deficient frameworks for policies that address such issues. The project’s focus, Holleman says, is “the historical development of water management in the Southwestern states and emergent trends associated with the increasing recognition of a broader decline of freshwater availability.” She explains that she is “interested in the Southwest because [her] roots are deep there, [because] it is an area facing severe drought once again, and [because] it serves as a microcosm of broader issues facing our society and the world right now.”