How global regimes diffuse in space – Explaining a missed transition in San Diego's water sector

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Socio-technical regimes are highly institutionalized rationalities that have co-evolved with actors, technologies and institutions over extended periods of time and become taken for granted across geographical contexts. Transition studies feature an extensive focus on regime dynamics within specific territorial contexts. However, we know surprisingly little of how regime rationalities are constructed, diffused and reproduced across space. This is a key gap in the geography of sustainability transitions literature. This paper introduces a conceptual model to analyze transformative opportunities in regions and how regime actors strategically diffuse and implement global regime solutions through combinations of discursive and substantive system reconfiguration activities. The empirical analysis draws upon a combination of Socio-Technical Configuration Analysis (STCA) of 354 newspaper articles and 10 in-depth expert interviews to illuminate how regime actors prevailed in diffusing and legitimizing the water sector's dominant socio-technical configuration in San Diego during a period of substantial transformative opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-47
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Sept

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Djamila Lesch for comments on a previous version of the paper. During 2021, the paper was presented at seminars at Eawag and CIRCLE and benefited from insightful comments by colleagues. We also acknowledge valuable inputs from two anonymous reviewers as well as the handling editor. The work benefited from generous support from the Swiss National Science Foundation [grant number 10001A_179219 / 1].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Human Geography

Free keywords

  • Desalination
  • Global regimes
  • Regime diffusion
  • Regional discourse dynamics
  • San Diego
  • Socio-technical configuration analysis


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