Rational choice and spatial based solidarity problems

“Strategies that are rational at the level of the individual can lead to unintended consequences or suboptimal outcomes at group or society level, thereby creating solidarity and inequality problems”



I would also add, strategies that are rational at local level can lead to unintended consequences at national or international level, thereby creating territorial based solidarity and inequality problems. Well, I am right now thinking in my abstract for the nex midterm conference of the European Sociological Association research network “energy and society”:

Since the oil crisis and continuing until the mid-eighties, many projects to exploit natural resources on a large scale were carried out in the United States and Europe. Due to the demographic and economic boom, the phenomenon became known as energy boomtown, having received the attention of many sociologists up to date, but mainly from the American environmental sociologist William Freudenburg. His legacy is now essential to understand the social impact of large scale energy projects, but also suggests how regional factors play a crucial role in the configuration of energy national strategies. By mean a case study, this paper aims to test and further develop the William Freudenburg theory on the addictive character of the economies that someday harboured a large scale energy project, that is, boomtowns. After having performed seventeen semi-structure interviews, the discourse analysis reveals the existence of both political and trade union forces that struggle to keep the old power plant opened while hoping to live a new boom effect by attracting new large scale projects. The formers know about the electoral benefits and the latter would have more difficult its action in a more dispersed labor market. Results suggest that the implementation of energy transition national strategies is also subjected to the influence power of certain local and regional forces on the central government.

Both solidarity and inequality problems are solved as far as there exist concessions from individuals by mean the creation of norms, a important dimension of social capital.


“Local Social perception of a mining artificial lake in Spain” my abstract for the next European Sociological Association conference in Prague

The construction of a large scale power plant in the town of As Pontes in the late seventies and the associated influx of new workers would definitely change a place that by that time was not far from many others villages that form the most genuine rural Galicia. The closure of the adjacent opencast coalmine in recent years and its conversion into an artificial lake finally defined its particular idiosyncrasies up to date. By mean a mixed methods analysis (in-depth interviews, focus group and observation), this paper aims to study the social perception of the new artificial lake among locals, while also looking at the more theoretical questions about interdependencies between natural, social and built environment. Specifically, this paper is an opportunity to build upon the legacy of the American sociologist William Freudenburg and his concept of Opportunity-threat. Results accounts for the existence of two divergent social constructions that could be associated to an old social category and identity strategies among neighbours: long term residents and newcomers. First and most dominant, a perception of the lake as both a new symbol of the town due to its grandiosity and as an opportunity for an industrial development associated to water that could bring a new boom. On the other hand, a more sceptical perception among long term residents who not only distrust about the security of the lake itself but also see a menace to the social centrality of other historical symbols of the town, as the river or the town square.

See this video to know closely the reconversion process from mine to lake in As Pontes. In Spanish, though.