GROWTH Socio ecological transformation Ulrich Brand Markus Wissen

Growth – De-Growth

Social-ecological transformation
Ulrich Brand
University of Vienna, Austria
Markus Wissen
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany

Social-ecological transformation is an umbrella
term which describes political, socioeconomic,
and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to
address the socioecological crisis. Under this
conceptual and epistemic heading, such terms as
green, great or social-ecological transition, great
or societal transformation, green economy, and
sociotechnical transition have increasingly come
into use. Their goal is to provide a comprehensive
understanding of current global environmental
change and to contribute to a social and political
strategy for dealing with the crisis. Research programs
for the social sciences have been oriented
accordingly (Hackmann and St Clair 2012).
The concepts and related debates have gained
specific importance, first, due to the increasing
acknowledgment that existing sectoralized and
top-down forms of global or regional environmental
management have failed and, second, in
view of the “multiple crises” of the financial
system, the economy, nature, energy provision,
and food. There is a strong consensus in the
literature that profound societal changes will be
required in order to get a grip on these multiple
crises. In the context of this consensus, however,
the socioecological crisis is approached from the
positions of divergent normative interests and
different theoretical perspectives, with the result
that a variety of different and even contrasting
analyses and proposals concerning the ways out
of the crisis have emerged (Brand et al. 2013).
The following noncomprehensive overview
first addresses important flagship reports issued
mainly by political organizations and think
tanks. These are seen as indicators of a shift of
perception within state apparatuses on various
spatial scales and as an attempt to shape the
corridor of social-ecological transformation.
Second, key aspects are presented of the academic
debate which have to some extent
influenced these political flagship reports, but
have also raised more fundamental theoretical
and political questions. In the outlook, conclusions
are drawn regarding a critical perspective
on social-ecological transformation.”

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