Theory, Evidence and Policy
Edited by Boelie Elzen, Frank W. Geels and Ken Green
Chapter 3: Socio-technological Regimes and Transition Contexts
3. Socio-technological regimes and transition contexts Frans Berkhout, Adrian Smith and Andy Stirling INTRODUCTION This chapter is concerned with processes of change and transformation in socio-technical regimes – patterns of artefacts, institutions, rules and norms assembled and maintained to perform economic and social activities. The discussion addresses recent theory in understanding the regime transformation process. We argue that these approaches place too much emphasis on the role of technological ‘niches’ as the principal locus for regime change. Instead, we argue that there is a range of diﬀerent ‘transition contexts’ in which regime change can take place. Niches are protected ‘experimental settings’ (Rip and Kemp, 1998) where norms and practices are developed which depart from those of an incumbent technological regime. According to niche-based understandings, regime changes begin when practices and norms developed in the niche become adopted more widely. Their inﬂuence grows and gathers momentum, until eventually the wider technological regime becomes completely transformed by the conﬁgurations originally nurtured within the niche. This is an elegant and plausible model, supported by a rich body of historical empirical evidence. However, there is a danger that attention to this particular mechanism may have inhibited complementary and more multidimensional understandings of regime change. In this chapter, we pose the question as to whether there may be a greater plurality of possible transformation pathways. We discuss the possibility of a number of speciﬁc alternative contexts and drivers for regime change, with signiﬁcant implications for both research and policy analysis. This...
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