Global socio-technical regimes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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 regions and 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 wastewater sector. Recent studies indicate that key decisions on wastewater infrastructure expansion were not only influenced by path-dependencies stemming from China's national context, but equally (or even more critically) by 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.


External organisations
  • Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified


  • Geography of transitions, Globalization, Institutional change, Socio-technical regime
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-749
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number4
Early online date2018 Feb 26
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May
Publication categoryResearch

Related research output

Lea Fünfschilling & Christian Binz, 2017, (Papers in Innovation Studies, CIRCLE; vol. 2017, no. 1).

Research output: Working paper

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