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Transforming Power: social science and the politics of energy choices

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  • Andy Stirling

    () (SPRU, University of Sussex, UK)

Abstract

This paper addresses some key implications in momentous current global energy choices – both for social science and for society itself. Energy can be over-used as a lens for viewing social processes. But it is nonetheless of profound importance. Understanding possible ‘sustainable energy’ transformations requires attention to many tricky issues in social theory: around agency and structure and the interplay of power, contingency and practice. These factors are as much shaping of the knowledges and normativities supposedly driving transformation, as they are shaped by them. So, ideas and hopes about possible pathways for change – as well as notions of ‘the transition’ itself – can be deeply constituted by incumbent interests. The paper addresses these dynamics by considering contending forms of transformation centring on renewable energy, nuclear power and climate geoengineering. A series of challenges are identified for social science. These apply especially where there are aims to help enable more democratic exercise of social agency. They enjoin responsibilities to ‘open up’ (rather than ‘close down’), active political spaces for critical contention over alternative pathways. If due attention is to be given to marginalised interests, then a reflexive view needs to be taken of transformation. The paper ends with a series of concrete political lessons.

Suggested Citation

  • Andy Stirling, 2014. "Transforming Power: social science and the politics of energy choices," SPRU Working Paper Series 2014-03, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
  • Handle: RePEc:sru:ssewps:2014-03
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    File URL: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/documents/2014-03-swps-stirling.pdf
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    Cited by:

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    8. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10460-016-9737-9 is not listed on IDEAS
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    11. Hanimann, Raphael & Vinterbäck, Johan & Mark-Herbert, Cecilia, 2015. "Consumer behavior in renewable electricity: Can branding in accordance with identity signaling increase demand for renewable electricity and strengthen supplier brands?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 11-21.
    12. Adela Conchado & Pedro Linares, 2017. "A New ‘Cut’ on Technological Innovation Aiming for Sustainability in a Globalized World," SPRU Working Paper Series 2017-25, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    13. Phil Johnstone & Andy Stirling, 2015. "Comparing Nuclear Power Trajectories inGermany And the UK: From ‘Regimes’ to ‘Democracies’ in Sociotechnical Transitions and Discontinuities," SPRU Working Paper Series 2015-18, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    14. Edomah, Norbert & Foulds, Chris & Jones, Aled, 2017. "Policy making and energy infrastructure change: A Nigerian case study of energy governance in the electricity sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 476-485.
    15. repec:eee:enepol:v:109:y:2017:i:c:p:825-834 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Rogge, Karoline S. & Pfluger, Benjamin & Geels, Frank, 2017. "Transformative policy mixes in socio-technical scenarios: The case of the low-carbon transition of the German electricity system (2010-2050)," Working Papers "Sustainability and Innovation" S11/2017, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    17. Hanappi, Hardy & Scholz-Waeckerle, Manuel, 2015. "Evolutionary Political Economy: Content and Methods," MPRA Paper 75447, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    21. Kelly-Richards, Sarah & Silber-Coats, Noah & Crootof, Arica & Tecklin, David & Bauer, Carl, 2017. "Governing the transition to renewable energy: A review of impacts and policy issues in the small hydropower boom," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 251-264.
    22. Purwanto, Widodo Wahyu & Afifah, Nok, 2016. "Assessing the impact of techno socioeconomic factors on sustainability indicators of microhydro power projects in Indonesia: A comparative study," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 312-322.
    23. repec:eee:energy:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:786-802 is not listed on IDEAS
    24. Julie. L MacArthur, 2016. "Challenging public engagement: participation, deliberation and power in renewable energy policy," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 6(3), pages 631-640, September.
    25. Markard, Jochen & Hoffmann, Volker H., 2016. "Analysis of complementarities: Framework and examples from the energy transition," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 63-75.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    power; social science; transformation; energy transitions; renewable energy; nuclear power; climate geoengineering; sustainability; reflexive governance; sociotechnical regimes; planetary boundaries;

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