Axes of contestation in sustainability transitions

Stine Madsen, Johan Miörner, Teis Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research in sustainability transitions increasingly acknowledges that the structural characteristics of socio-technical systems differ. However, little attention has been paid to the specific transition dynamics that can result from this structural variation. In response, this paper develops a framework for studying transition dynamics that takes the structural characteristics of socio-technical systems and their influence on agency into account. We introduce the concept contestation axis to highlight alternative potential interfaces between functional solutions in a socio-technical system. We argue that considerable agency and frictions between actors can play out at other axes than between established regimes and emerging niches. Our conceptual framework is applied to a case study in the waste sector. We explore how the growing influence of the circular economy triggers misalignment between multiple socio-technical configurations in the Danish waste sector. In the case, we zoom in on three actual frictions that have manifested along different contestation axes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-269
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Free keywords

  • Agency
  • Contestation axis
  • Socio-technical configurations
  • Socio-technical system
  • Waste management


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