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Agency in regime destabilization through the selection environment: The Finnish food system’s sustainability transition

A. Kuokkanen, A. Nurmi, M. Mikkilä, M. Kuisma, H. Kahiluoto and L. Linnanen

Research Policy, 2018, vol. 47, issue 8, 1513-1522

Abstract: The growing urgency of environmental threats combined with the slow pace of sustainability transitions has turned attention towards a better understanding of regime destabilization. Focusing excessively on niche innovations could be incumbent regimes’ diversion and resistance strategy and could reinforce the ‘business as usual’ mindset instead of contributing to system-wide changes. Historical cases of system transition have most often been used to understand the dynamics of regime destabilization. However, these insights have limitations when the focus is on ongoing transitions. Moreover, it is argued that more attention should be paid to agency and actors. Herein, regime destabilization is understood through an internally structured selection environment, implying that agency is assumed not only in variation at the niche level but also in the selection processes: (1) the selection environment is shaped by active and strategic actors and actor networks; (2) the selection environment is shaped by diverse discursive framings; and (3) the selection environment is shaped by various actors beyond the regime and even beyond the system in question. The argument is empirically tested in the case of the Finnish food system by constructing prevailing storylines in the sustainability transition. Four contrasting but partially overlapping storylines and their associated actor networks are identified. The empirical case supports the view that actors across all levels aim to influence the selection environment’s formulation with their framing of the problem and the strategic response. Thus, more attention must be paid to the content and diversity of different discursive framings in sustainability transitions.

Keywords: Selection environment; Regime destabilization; Agency; Food system; Sustainability transition (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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