Transitions, Transformations, and Reproduction: Dynamics in Socio‐Technical Systems

Frank W. Geels and René Kemp

in Flexibility and Stability in the Innovating Economy

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199290475
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603495 | DOI:
 Transitions, Transformations, and Reproduction: Dynamics in Socio‐Technical Systems

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This chapter explores innovating and technological transformation in terms of competing socio-technical systems which evolve over long time periods. It examines changes in functional systems both from a theoretical and empirical perspective. It offers a typology of system changes and two brief case studies based on multilevel analysis: the hygienic transition from cesspools to integrated sewer systems (1870-1930) and the transformation in waste management (1960-2000) in the Netherlands. Three types of processes through which systems may change are described: reproduction, transformation, and transition. In the case of reproduction, there is no fundamental change at the meso level (the orientation of dominant actors, regime rules, and key technology or knowledge base), which is the case when stabilizing factors dominate. In the case of transitions and transformations in sociotechnical systems, there are meso-level changes created either by problems or new opportunities afforded by changes in technology and changes in the overall landscape. Transitions and transformations can only occur when developments at multiple levels amplify each other. This is worked out in a scheme of dynamic interactions between actors, systems rules, and social networks. The novelty of the scheme is that a regime perspective is combined with an actor perspective.

Keywords: technological transformation; sewer systems; waste management; reproduction; transformation; transition; regime perspective; actor perspective

Chapter.  12452 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Systems

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