Theories of sustainability

Maximilian Muhr
Art x Science School for Transformation
2023W, Vorlesung und Übungen (VU), 2.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S04948


In this course, you will get an overview of the history and development of the modern scientific and sociocultural sustainability discourses. We will critically examine international political frameworks such as the UN 2030 Agenda with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mainstream sustainability-related narratives such as Planetary Boundaries and Doughnut Economics will be introduced and discussed alongside less dominant socio-ecological concepts, such as Degrowth, Buen Vivir, or The Imperial Mode of Living.

We will also take a look at the recent Earth for All report to the Club of Rome and its underlying assumptions and paradigms. This includes a joint deconstruction of key terms such as systems and scenarios - the goal here is to practice dealing with complexity without reducing it in an all too mechanistic way. You are explicitly invited to relate these  topics with contents, projects and assignments from your other courses. I will also put an emphasis on these overlaps (e.g., with Philosophies of Transformation or History and Philosophy of Science) to best integrate our learning experience in the context of the curriculum.

Examination Modalities

The five blocked sessions will provide us the opportunity to dive deeper into a few topic areas. The sessions will include a mix of lecture-like input, joint discussion, and small single and group exercises.

You will be asked to do readings and different assignments before and/or after the sessions. This class is "prüfungsimmanent", meaning that the assignments and your active participation in class will be the basis for your continuous examination. Participation in all five sessions is expected.



Please note the different time for session II (09:00-13:30 instead of 13:30-18:00).

Session III will be conducted in co-teaching with Jens Badura's class Philosophies of Transformation.

The course will take place in person in the School facilities at PSK in Vienna.


19 October 2023, 13:30–18:00, "First assignment due 17 October: see cloud for details"
09 November 2023, 09:00–13:30
23 November 2023, 13:30–18:00, "Co-teaching with Jens Badura"
07 December 2023, 13:30–18:00
25 January 2024, 14:00–18:00 Transformation Lecture Room 2 , "Alternate date for 11 January"

Course Enrolment

From 19 September 2023, 14:59 to 13 October 2023, 23:59
Via online registration

Transformation Studies. Art x Science (Bachelor): Understand! Transformation: Theories of Sustainability, VU (Angewandte) 162/002.15

Global Challenges and Sustainable Developments (Master): Envisioning Change / Applying Innovative Strategies: Introduction to Sustainable Development Theories 565/000.05

Co-registration: not possible

Attending individual courses: not possible