STS - conferences, IST2012

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Transitions dynamics at the level of society as a whole.
John Grin

Last modified: 2012-03-20


Much of transitions studies has focused on understanding transition dynamics with specific domains, such as mobility, agriculture or energy. This paper seeks to contribute to the further development of transition theory by exploring how transitions may occur across various domains.

Empirically, the paper draws on how, during the 19th and early 20th century, Dutch society changed. Crucial drivers of that process were two major ‘container’ issues, economic stagnation and the ‘social question’, as well as the strong desire for emancipation from the dominance of the conservative-liberal governing elite by women, young men, labourers and church people. Especially from the latter groups, many initiatives emerged to deal with economic stagnation, the social issue or both.

In the paper, some of these innovative, often experimental practices will be discussed so as to explore:

  • How the emergence of these projects may be understood on basis of the dynamics of these issues, the emancipation processes, transnational influences, material flows and the increasing influence of a modernist faith in progress;
  • How the acceleration of the transition may be understood by analyzing how (i) the regime elements emerging around these experiments helped to promote follow-on innovations, also across sectors, thus changing the power relations and (ii) practices of production and consumption came to reinforce each other;
  • How a deeper understanding of these acceleration mechanisms may be attained by investigating how experimental practices and regime elements from different domains became related in (a) time and (b) space so as to form assemblages that facilitated this acceleration.

On basis of that analysis, some theoretical propositions and issues for further research will be formulated. This may help to embed transition theory better in critical-historicist approaches in social science, as well as in theories on space and spatial flows. It also may help to bridge Multi-level perspective (MLP) based approaches to studies rooted in the social theory of practice.