Accepted Paper:

Transformative Change - Sociological Perspectives on the Emergence of New Structures and the German Electricity Transition  

Author:

Gerhard Fuchs (University of Stuttgart)

Paper short abstract:

Sociology has become increasingly interested in studying the question how new structures evolve. It will be discussed whether these approaches are useful for studying socio-technical change. As an empirical example the transformation of the German electricity system will be analyzed

Paper long abstract:

In recent years sociology has become increasingly interested in studying the question how new structures evolve (Martin 2010; Padgett and Powell 2012; Fligstein and McAdam 2011, 2012; White 2008). The proposed paper will try to connect these approaches to the study of socio-technical change processes. As an example for the potential usefulness of the approach, the transformation of the German system of electricity generation and supply will be analyzed.

The proposed paper will proceed as follows. At first the specific characteristics and assumptions of the approaches will be analyzed - which especially refers to their actor-orientation and relational character. A further defining feature is the emphasis on studying mechanisms that are instrumental in bringing about transformative change. In a second section the question will be raised to what extent these approaches can provide new insights compared to dominant approaches like transition theory. The emphasis will be on the question of conceptualizing the influence of technological and institutional factors or constraints. In a third section the usefulness of the approach will be tested by analyzing the transformation of the German system of electricity generation and supply.

Fligstein, Neil/McAdam Doug 2011: Toward a General Theory of Strategic Action Fields. Sociological Theory, 29 (1), 1-26.

Fligstein, Neil/McAdam, Doug 2012: A Theory of Fields. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Martin, John Levi 2009: Social Structures. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Powell, Walter L./Padgett, John F. (eds.) 2012: The Emergence of Organizations and Markets. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

White, Harrison C. 2008: Identity and Control. How Social Formations Emerge. 2nd. Ed. Princeton: Princeton UP.

Panel T050
Conceptualizing transformational change in energy systems and the built environment