Phil is a Research Fellow with a background in Human Geography and Science and Technology Studies interested in the political and democratic implications of sociotechnical change.

He is currently working on the Deep Transitions project, looking at the role of war and warfare in sociotechnical transitions, and the Governance of Sociotechnical Transformations (GoST) project looking at past and prospective transformations in agriculture, energy, and urban development.

Previously he worked on the ‘Smart Energy Transition’ (SET Plan), looking at ‘disruptive technologies’ in the energy sector, and differences between national contexts in terms of how ‘disruptive technologies’ are governed within sustainable transformations of energy systems. Prior to that, he worked on a three-year project on the Governance of Discontinuity in Technological Systems (DiscGo). looking at the under-examined ‘flip side’ to innovation – how technology governance can address the crucial task of disengaging from well-established socio-technical systems.

Also by this author

The Effect Of Shocks On Sustainability Transitions

The role of exogenous shocks in influencing transition process is of significant interest to diverse literatures in Sustainability Science. Such events disturb and interrupt path dependent processes in ecological, economic, social, and technological systems. Sometimes this can lead to radical departures from existing trajectories and at other times existing systems can be more resilient, adapting…

World wars and sociotechnical change in energy, food, and transport: A deep transitions perspective.

Abstract This paper explores the relationship between world wars and sociotechnical transitions in energy, food, and transport. We utilise and contribute to the Deep Transitions framework, which explores long-term, multi-systemic sociotechnical transitions and integrate a conceptual approach tailored to this particular topic. This approach bridges between historical literatures focused on world wars and sociotechnical perspectives….

World wars and the age of oil: Exploring directionality in deep energy transitions

Abstract This paper explores the role of the world wars in 20th century energy transitions, focusing on the growth of oil as a major energy source which accelerated after the Second World War in North America and Europe. We utilise the recently developed Deep Transitions framework which combines Techno-Economic Paradigms and sociotechnical transitions approaches. The…

The changing landscape of deep transitions: Sociotechnical imprinting and chemical warfare

Abstract This paper addresses a major gap in sustainability transitions research: the role of shocks in shaping transition dynamics. The papers focuses on shocks with traumatic consequences, in particular World War I and II. The paper revisits discussions on the sociotechnical landscape in the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) and Deep Transition framework, offering refined versions of…

Episode 3: Imprints of War in Deep Transitions

Deep Transitions
Deep Transitions
Episode 3: Imprints of War in Deep Transitions
“We always forget about pipelines”. Let Phil Johnstone and Caitriona McLeish change that in this week’s podcast, with their memorable account of how the World Wars’ incredible feats of mass mobilisation led us to the unsustainable age of abundant energy and militarised nations we know today. Do we need to declare war on climate change?…
Blog - March 31, 2020

War, huh, what is it good for….?

According to Edwin Starr, “absolutely nothing” but when we present our work on the influential role of the World Wars in the culmination of the first deep transition, we keep being asked the same question: “So, you’re saying that we need a war then?” It seems the question is asked in relation to two considerations…

The Role of War in Deep Transitions: Exploring Mechanisms, Imprints and Rules in Sociotechnical Systems

This paper builds on the Deep Transitions (DT) framework to explore in what ways the two World Wars influenced transitions in the sociotechnical systems of energy, food and transport. The role of war is an underexplored aspect in both Techno-Economic Paradigms (TEP) approach and the Multi-level perspective (MLP) which form the two key conceptual building…