Trajectories of Social Metabolism and Land Use
Advances in Ecological Economics series
Edited by Marina Fischer-Kowalski and Helmut Haberl
Chapter 4: The Great Transformation: A Socio-metabolic Reading of the Industrialization of the United Kingdom
Heinz Schandl and Fridolin Krausmann 4.1 INTRODUCTION This chapter deals with the biophysical foundations and consequences of the historical transition from an agrarian to an industrial socioecological regime, which, starting from United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Belgium, encompassed most European countries, the United States and some other countries in the course of the 19th century (Grübler 1994). The perspective on industrialization presented in this chapter focuses on the transformation of the socioeconomic energy system and changes in society–nature interactions and therefore complements and extends classical economic-historical approaches (Fischer-Kowalski and Haberl 1993; Sieferle 2001; Wrigley 1988). From a socioecological perspective, industrialization appears as a process that fundamentally alters the size and structure of socioeconomic metabolism as well as its relation to land use and agriculture. The chapter explores the speciﬁc character of the transition process in the United Kingdom. We will show that industrialization conceived as a socio-metabolic transition is not a continuous and steady process of growth. By using biophysical variables we will distinguish qualitatively diﬀerent phases of development. The chapter explores the drivers of the metabolic transition and identiﬁes factors that ushered it in during the 17th and 18th centuries. Our assumptions draw on empirical evidence gathered for the United Kingdom, a forerunner of industrialization. From a historic perspective, the economy in the United Kingdom experienced a transition from a controlled solar energy system to a fully developed industrial nation showing a high level of material and energy use that is characteristic of today’s...
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