1st Edition

Common Sense in Environmental Management
Thinking Through English Land and Water

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after April 1, 2021
ISBN 9780367777296
April 1, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
184 Pages

USD $48.95

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Book Description

Common Sense in Environmental Management examines common sense not in theory, but in practice. Jonathan Woolley argues that common sense as a concept is rooted in English experiences of landscape and land management and examines it ethnographically - unveiling common sense as key to understanding how British nature and public life are transforming in the present day.

Common sense encourages English people to tacitly assume that the management of land and other resources should organically converge on a consensus that yields self-evident, practical results. Furthermore, the English then tend to assume that their own position reflects that consensus. Other stakeholders are not seen as having legitimate but distinct expertise and interests – but are rather viewed as being stupid and/or immoral, for ignoring self-evident, pragmatic truths. Compromise is therefore less likely, and land management practices become entrenched and resistant to innovation and improvement. Through a detailed ethnographic study of the Norfolk Broads, this book explores how environmental policy and land management in rural areas could be more effective if a truly common sense was restored in the way we manage our shared environment.

Using academic and lay deployments of common sense as a route into the political economy of rural environments, this book will be of great interest to scholars and students of socio-cultural anthropology, sociology, human geography, cultural studies, social history, and the environmental humanities.

Table of Contents

Table of Figures

Preface – Common sense: A briefing for policymakers

The problem – Siloing obstructs effective Environmental Land Management

What is common sense?

How does it shape English society and land management?

How should policymakers respond?


Introduction – Common sense questions

Why: Why Common Sense?

Where: The Broads as a Fieldsite

What: A Commonsense Argument


Chapter 1 – Do academics have common sense?

Koinē aísthēsis and other opinions: Key philosophical debates on common sense

"Sons of the Soil": Etymologies of common sense

Common sense as a social scientific object

Common sense as a political object

Chapter 2 – What is common sense?

Common sense as a vernacular object

Common sense in vernacular use

Chapter 2: Where is common sense to be found?

Learned voices: Common land in environmental histories of Broadland

Working Voices: "Bad Farming", Tidyness and the Balance of Contemporary Rural Life in Norfolk

Concerned voices: Current trends in Britain’s rural economy

Analysis: Work, Common Land and the Process of Enclosure in Broadland

Conclusion: The Institution of Common Ground

Chapter 4 – Can you learn common sense?

Overview: Strumpshaw Fen as a Place of Desire

Underview: Thicket Description of Working Your Way Through the Landscape

Counterview: Quiet Enjoyment and Visitor Experience

Interview: Farmers, Children, and the Acquisition of Common Sense

Teleview: "Broadland Consciousness" versus "Barrier Consciousness"

Chapter 5 – Why is common sense so scarce?

Hickling Broad: A lack of common ground

Bird Farmers: Catfield Fen and Landscape-Scale Conservation

Fragmenting Corporeal Attitudes: Habitus and "The Silo Effect"

Trials and Errors: The trouble with common sense

Conclusion: Chedgrave Common and the Apogee of Commoning

Conclusions – What do we need to know about common sense?

Gillian Tett, Robert Kett, and the Division of Labour

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Jonathan Woolley is an Affiliated Researcher at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, UK. He was awarded his PhD in March 2018, following over a year of ethnographic fieldwork in the Broads National Park, upon which this book is based. Jonathan’s research there was part of an AHRC-funded research project at the University, Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate, which explored the styles of learning about the environment that exist in different cultures around the world. Jonathan has also written on East Anglian folklore, nature spirituality, and public engagement with environmental and cultural heritage.