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 blocks of the DT perspective. Thus, we develop a conceptual approach tailored to this particular topic which integrates accounts of total war and mechanisms of war from historical studies and imprinting from organisational studies with the DT framework’s attention towards on rules and meta-rules.

We explore in what ways the three sociotechnical systems were affected by the emergence of new demand pressures and logistical challenges during conditions of total war, impacted the directionality of sociotechnical systems, saw new national and international policy capacities emerge and the extent to which these systems were influenced by cooperation and shared sacrifice under wartime conditions. We then explore what lasting changes resulted in energy, food, and transport, stemming from these two wars across the Transatlantic zone.

This paper seeks to open up a hitherto neglected area in analysis on sociotechnical transitions and we discuss the importance of further research that is attentive towards entanglements of warfare and the military particularly the field of sustainability transitions.

Document Type:
Working paper