Conceptualizing, Observing, and Influencing Social-Ecological Transitions

  title={Conceptualizing, Observing, and Influencing Social-Ecological Transitions},
  author={Marina Fischer-Kowalski and Jan Rotmans},
  journal={Ecology and Society},
This article creates a meeting ground between two distinct and fairly elaborate research traditions dealing with social "transitions": the Dutch societal transitions management approach, and the Viennese sociometabolic transitions approach. Sharing a similar understanding of sustainability transitions —namely as major transformational changes of system characteristics—and a background epistemology of complex systems, autopoeisis, and evolutionary mechanisms, they address the subject from… 

Figures and Tables from this paper

Challenges for Social-Ecological Transformations: Contributions from Social and Political Ecology

Transformation has become a major topic of sustainability research. This opens up new perspectives, but at the same time, runs the danger to convert into a new critical orthodoxy which narrows down

Transformational responses to climate change: beyond a systems perspective of social change in mitigation and adaptation

There is a growing imperative for responses to climate change to go beyond incremental adjustments, aiming instead for society‐wide transformation. In this context, sociotechnical (ST) transitions

Pathways to transformational change in the face of climate impacts: an analytical framework

Unprecedented impacts of climate change and climate variability in the twenty-first century are likely to require transformational social, organizational and human responses. Yet, little existing

Scrutinizing the Great Acceleration: The Anthropocene and its analytic challenges for social-ecological transformations

Despite considerable advancements over the last couple of years, research on the Anthropocene still faces at least two challenges: (1) integrating different approaches from natural, social and

Understanding social-ecological change and transformation through community perceptions of system identity

We developed an empirical approach to consider social-ecological system change and transformation by drawing on resource users’ knowledge and perceptions. We applied this approach in the Cau Hai

Transitions to sustainability: a change in thinking about food systems change?

In the present context of intertwined and intensifying economic, environmental and climate challenges and crisis, we need to enlarge our thinking about food systems change. One way to do so is by

Capitalism in sustainability transitions research: Time for a critical turn?

  • G. Feola
  • Sociology
    Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
  • 2020

Societal transformation in response to global environmental change: A review of emerging concepts

This paper aims to provide structure to the dialog on transformation, and to reflect on the challenges of social research in this area, by identifying concepts of transformation through a literature review and examined using four analytical criteria.




Models from six domains are compared to explicate the punctuated equilibrium paradigm and show its broad applicability for organizational studies: how it is triggered, how systems function during such periods, and how it concludes.

Transition management: reflexive governance of societal complexity through searching, learning and experimenting

textabstractOur society faces a number of persistent problems whose symptoms are becoming more and more apparent. Persistent problems are complex because they are: deeply embedded in our societal

The dynamics of transitions in socio-technical systems: A multi-level analysis of the transition pathway from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles (1860–1930)

  • F. Geels
  • Business
    Technol. Anal. Strateg. Manag.
  • 2005
Investigating transitions at the level of societal functions (e.g. transport, communication, housing) finds that particular niches played a crucial role in this competition, as well as the wider socio-technical context.

Assessing the Dutch Energy Transition Policy: How Does it Deal with Dilemmas of Managing Transitions?

In the Netherlands, the national government is committed towards altering the systems of energy, transport and agriculture in the name of sustainable development. A process of deliberation and change

Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways

Transition Management: New Mode of Governance for Sustainable Development

textabstractThis book introduces transition management as a new mode of governance for sustainable development. Transition management combines a conceptual approach on social complexity, governance

Societal Innovation: Between Dream and Reality Lies Complexity

Jan Rotmans (1961) is one of the founders of Integrated Assessment (IA), and has outstanding experience in IA modeling, scenario-building, uncertainty management and transition management. During the