Presentation / Talk

Resilience of transitions - Seven theses to frame sustainability transitions from a resilience perspective

Within the sustainability discourse, resilience has been taken up more and more as a central boundary object. Resilience in principle has both static and dynamic elements to it, allowing a system to stay in an equilibrium without endangering its long-term stability. In (empirical) implementations, however, many resilience applications emphasize a static and conservative understanding of system transformation and rarely include dynamic aspects. At the same time, transition studies have pointed out ways to analyze dynamic system state shifts towards more sustainable ways of living. However, these studies rarely refer to resilience as more than resistance against transitions and lack a proper conceptual perspective on the stability of specific transition pathways. An analysis of existing transitions and resilience concepts and their possible (theoretical) interconnections, reveals two main issues: i) the two discourses implicate diverging normative connotations regarding system transformation. Resilience studies typically emphasize a conservative understanding of systemic change that focuses on dynamic equilibria, while the transitions discourse favors a more fundamental form of system transformation; ii) a theoretical concept of sustainability transitions that not only includes the drivers for transition processes, but also its stability, is missing. To overcome these issues, we introduce the theoretical “resilience of transitions” concept as an integrative approach that links transitions and resilience thinking. In seven theses, we propose an extension of the stability landscape concept by Walker et al. (2004) that provides (i) an added-value for the conceptual understanding of sustainability transitions and (ii) a new, more dynamic perspective on resilience as a procedural characteristic of transition processes. We understand this concept as a starting point for a critical reflection on existing theories that eventually could facilitate the creation of a more comprehensive and integrative understanding of sustainability transitions.


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