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Holding the future together: towards a theorisation of the spaces and times of transition


  • Gavin Brown
  • Peter Kraftl
  • Jenny Pickerill


Social scientists often use the notion of ‘transition’ to denote diverse trajectories of change in different types of bodies: from individuals, to communities, to nation-states. Yet little work has theorised how transition might occur across, between, or beyond these bodies. The aim of this paper is to sketch out a multiple, synthetic, and generative (but by no means universal) theory of transition. Primarily drawing on the British context, we explore and exemplify two contentions. Firstly, that the notion of transition is increasingly being deployed to frame and combine discourses in terms of community development, responses to environmental change, and the individual lifecourse. Specifically framed as ‘transition’, such discourses are gaining increasing purchase in imagining futures that reconfigure, but do not transform, assumed neoliberal futures. Our second contention is that these discourses and policies must try to ‘hold the future together’ in one or more senses. They must wrestle with a tension between imminent threats (climate change, economic nonproductivity) which weigh heavily on the present and its possible futures, and the precarious act of redirecting those futures in ways that might better hold together diverse social groups, communities, and places. Keywords transition and transformation, Transition Towns, commons, policy transitions

Suggested Citation

  • Gavin Brown & Peter Kraftl & Jenny Pickerill, 2012. "Holding the future together: towards a theorisation of the spaces and times of transition," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 44(7), pages 1607-1623, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:44:y:2012:i:7:p:1607-1623

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    Cited by:

    1. Marc Wolfram & Niki Frantzeskaki, 2016. "Cities and Systemic Change for Sustainability: Prevailing Epistemologies and an Emerging Research Agenda," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(2), pages 1-18, February.
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:2:p:144:d:63440 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:924-:d:137588 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Strunz, Sebastian, 2014. "The German energy transition as a regime shift," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 150-158.

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