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The economic crisis as a game changer? Exploring the role of social construction in sustainability transitions.

Continuing economic turbulence fuelled debates about social and political reform as much as it has stimulated actions and initiatives aimed at a more fundamental transition of dominant economic systems. This paper takes a transition perspective to explore, from a Western European viewpoint, how the economic crisis is actually viewed through a variety of interpretations and responded to through a range of practices.

The continuing economic crisis has spurred debates about the inadequacies of our current financial and economic systems. It has drawn fresh attention to alternative economic narratives and arguably has generated an acceleration of social innovations.

We argue that framing societal phenomena such as the economic crisis as “symptoms of transition” through alternative narratives and actions can give rise to the potential for (seemingly) short-term pressures to become game changers. Game changers are then defined as the combination of: specific events, the subsequent or parallel framing of events in systemic terms by engaged societal actors, and (eventually) the emergence of (diverse) alternative narratives and practices (in response to the systemic framing of events). Game changers, when understood in these terms, help to orient, legitimize, guide, and accelerate deep changes in society. We conclude that such dynamics in which game changers gain momentum might also come to play a critical role in transitions.

Therefore, we argue for developing a better understanding of and methodologies to further study the coevolutionary dynamics associated with game changers, as well as exploring the implications for governance.

 

Citation

Loorbach, D., Avelino, F.,  Haxeltine, A.,  Wittmayer, J. M., O’Riordan, T., Weaver, P., and Kemp, R. (2016). The economic crisis as a game changer? Exploring the role of social construction in sustainability transitions. Ecology and Society 21(4):15.

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Date
November 13, 2016