‘Biting the bullet’: Hoe democratisch is Transitiemanagement?

Datum 14 jan, 2022

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(dit artikel is in het Engels)

How democratic is transition management? Throughout its twenty-year lifespan, the academic field has never adequately addressed the critiques that it lacks democratic legitimacy. This article draws on experiences with transition management in six cities across Europe to develop a framework for transition makers that helps to balance the desire to stay radical with the need to operate within liberal democratic structures.


From early on, reflexive governance approaches have been problematised for lacking explicit consideration of formal governance and decision-making structures. Developed over two decades ago, transition management is not an exception; it has been specifically critiqued for being democratically illegitimate and depoliticising issues.

Contributing to these debates, this article develops a legitimacy framework for understanding how transition management practices can be legitimised within liberal democratic structures, while safeguarding their transformative potential, or, ‘radical core’, while navigating innovation capture. This framework guides a comparative analysis of six European cities, who employ transition management practices for developing decarbonisation roadmaps towards 2050.

We discuss the emphasis on liberal democratic norms, the fuzziness of practices of participation and the closing down of policy options. We recommend the legitimacy framework to be used as a heuristic for reflexive governance, tool for explicating the conditionality of ‘radicality’ in transition management, and guide for designing accountability governance structures.

Tessa de Geus, Julia M. Wittmayer, Fenna Vogelzang (2022) “Biting the bullet: Addressing the democratic legitimacy of transition management” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 42, p201-218

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