Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy

No 2017/1: Global socio-technical regimes

Lea Fuenfschilling () and Christian Binz ()
Additional contact information
Lea Fuenfschilling: CIRCLE, Lund University, Postal: CIRCLE, Lund University, PO Box 117, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden
Christian Binz: CIRCLE, Lund University, Postal: CIRCLE, Lund University, PO Box 117, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: This paper addresses the question why socio-technical transitions follow similar trajectories in various parts of the world, even though the relevant material preconditions and institutional contexts vary greatly between different countries. It takes a critical stance on the implicit methodological nationalism in transition studies’ socio-technical regime concept and proposes an alternative ‘global’ regime perspective that embraces the increasingly multi-scalar actor networks and institutional rationalities which influence transition dynamics beyond national or regional borders. By drawing on globalization theories from sociology and human geography we show that socio-technical systems often develop institutional rationalities that are diffused via international networks and thus become influential in various places around the world. In so doing, we shed light on the multi-scalar interrelatedness of institutional structures and actors in socio-technical systems and elaborate on the implications for the conceptualization of transition dynamics. The paper illustrates this with the case study of an unsuccessful transition in the Chinese water sector. Recent studies indicate that key decisions on wastewater infrastructure build-up were not only influenced by path-dependencies stemming from China’s national context, but equally (or even more critically) by an import of the dominant rationality of the water sector’s global socio-technical regime. We conclude by discussing the contours of a new research agenda around the notion of global socio-technical regimes.

Keywords: socio-technical regime; globalization; geography of transitions; institutional change

JEL-codes: F55; F60; L95; O33

37 pages, January 27, 2017

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