Radical change and deep transitions: lessons from Europe’s infrastructure transition 1815–2015

E.B.A. van der Vleuten (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Schot and Kanger (2016) argue that the shift from an unsustainable to a sustainable society requires radical historical change in the form of a Deep Transition: “a series of connected transitions in many socio-technical systems [e.g. energy, mobility, food] towards a similar direction [e.g. sustainability].” They call for more research. In response, this paper discusses a historical Deep Transition. It tracks the connected histories of Europe's mobility, food supply, warfare, and ecological systems, all of which experienced a transnational infrastructure transition in the 19th and 20th centuries. Studying these connected histories as a ‘deep’ infrastructure transition highlights important dynamics of radical historical change. This paper also adds to Schot and Kanger's research agenda, highlighting: (1) the importance of studying actors in Deep Transitions—particularly ‘system entanglers’ who interweave various sociotechnical systems and thereby connect transitions; (2) how such actors produced convergence, but also divergence across connected transitions; (3) the extreme unpredictability of Deep Transitions due to such divergences; and (4) the need for reflexivity regarding the analyst's role in delineating Deep Transitions, so as to avoid essentialism and the uncritical reproduction of contemporary preoccupations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-32
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Volume32
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

Keywords

  • agency and structure
  • connected transitions
  • entangled history
  • historical transitions
  • systemic change

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