The Treadmill of Production: Extension, Refinement and Critique

The Treadmill of Production: Extension, Refinement and Critique,” [PDF] (coauthored with Richard York, York listed first – special issue on ‘the treadmill of production, part II’), Organization and Environment, vol. 18, no. 1 (March 2005), pp. 5-6. DOI: 10.1177/1086026604270325

Philosopher of science Imre Lakatos (1978) argued that the key to evaluating merit in the sciences lies in the distinction between progressive and degenerative research programs. A research program is progressive if its theoretical growth anticipates its empirical growth (i.e., if it predicts novel facts with some frequency rather than merely explaining facts discovered by rival research pro- grams). In contrast, degenerative research programs are those whose theoretical development lags behind their empirical development. Needless to say, a research program may switch between these two states at different periods in time. This part of the special issue is focused on Schnaiberg’s (1980) “Treadmill of Production” (ToP), in environmental sociology and presents articles that implicitly explore the extent to which the (ToP) research program has been progressive and has the potential to be progressive in the coming years by providing novel insights into emerging phenomena. Whether the program ultimately proves to be progressive or degenera- tive remains to be seen, but it is indisputable that the (ToP) is one of the leading theoretical perspectives in environmental sociology and is at the center of most major contemporary debates in the subdiscipline.


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