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Journal Cover Theory, Culture & Society
   Journal TOC RSS feeds Export to Zotero [152 followers]  Follow    
   Hybrid Journal Hybrid journal (It can contain Open Access articles)
     ISSN (Print) 0263-2764 - ISSN (Online) 1460-3616
     Published by Sage Publications Homepage  [739 journals]   [SJR: 1.233]   [H-I: 44]
  • The Problem of Energy
    • Authors: Urry; J.
      Pages: 3 - 20
      Abstract: Energy forms and their extensive scale are remarkably significant for the ways that societies are organized. This article shows the importance of how societies are ‘energized’ and especially the global growth of ‘fossil fuel societies’. Much social thought remains oblivious to the energy revolution realized over the past two to three centuries which set the ‘West’ onto a distinct trajectory. Energy is troubling for social thought because different energy systems with their ‘lock-ins’ are not subject to simple human intervention and control. Analyses are provided here of different fossil fuel societies, of coal and oil, with the latter enabling the liquid, mobilized 20th century. Consideration is paid to the possibilities of reducing fossil fuel dependence but it is shown how unlikely such a ‘powering down’ will be. The author demonstrates how energy is a massive problem for social theory and for 21st-century societies. Developing post-carbon theory and especially practice is far away but is especially urgent.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414536747|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414536747
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • Regime Resistance against Low-Carbon Transitions: Introducing Politics and
           Power into the Multi-Level Perspective
    • Authors: Geels; F. W.
      Pages: 21 - 40
      Abstract: While most studies of low-carbon transitions focus on green niche-innovations, this paper shifts attention to the resistance by incumbent regime actors to fundamental change. Drawing on insights from political economy, the paper introduces politics and power into the multi-level perspective. Instrumental, discursive, material and institutional forms of power and resistance are distinguished and illustrated with examples from the UK electricity system. The paper concludes that the resistance and resilience of coal, gas and nuclear production regimes currently negates the benefits from increasing renewables deployment. It further suggests that policymakers and many transition-scholars have too high hopes that ‘green’ innovation will be sufficient to bring about low-carbon transitions. Future agendas in research and policy should therefore pay much more attention to the destabilization and decline of existing fossil fuel regimes.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414531627|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414531627
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • What Is Energy For? Social Practice and Energy Demand
    • Authors: Shove, E; Walker, G.
      Pages: 41 - 58
      Abstract: Energy has an ambivalent status in social theory, variously figuring as a driver or an outcome of social and institutional change, or as something that is woven into the fabric of society itself. In this article the authors consider the underlying models on which different approaches depend. One common strategy is to view energy as a resource base, the management and organization of which depends on various intersecting systems: political, economic and technological. This is not the only route to take. The authors develop an alternative approach, viewing energy supply and energy demand as part of the ongoing reproduction of bundles and complexes of social practice. In articulating and comparing these two positions they show how social-theoretical commitments influence the ways in which problems like those of reducing carbon emissions are framed and addressed. Whereas theories of practice highlight basic questions about what energy is for, these issues are routinely and perhaps necessarily obscured by those who see energy as an abstract resource that structures or that is structured by a range of interlocking social systems.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414536746|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414536746
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • 'King Coal is Dead! Long Live the King!': The Paradoxes of Coal's
           Resurgence in the Emergence of Global Low-Carbon Societies
    • Authors: Tyfield; D.
      Pages: 59 - 81
      Abstract: Much discourse on low-carbon transition envisages progressive social change towards environmentally sustainable and more equitable societies. Yet much of this literature pays inadequate attention to the key question of (productive, relational) power. How do energy infrastructures and socio-technical systems interact with, construct, enable and constrain political regimes, and vice versa? Conceiving low-carbon energy transitions through a power lens, the paper explores a case study of huge, but overlooked, significance: the paradox of the ‘phenomenal’ resurgence of coal in an era of low-carbon innovation. Through exposition of the strong connections between coal-based socio-technical systems and a political regime of classical liberalism, illustrated in two eras, we trace an emerging constellation of energy and political regimes connecting ‘clean coal’ with a ‘liberalism 2.0’ centred on a rising China. This affords a critique of the low-carbon society emergent from these developments – a society more reminiscent of coal's previous Dickensian heyday than the progressive visions of much ‘low-carbon transition’ literature.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414537910|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414537910
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • The Political and Material Landscape of European Energy Distribution:
           Tracking the Oil Road
    • Authors: Marriott, J; Minio-Paluello, M.
      Pages: 83 - 101
      Abstract: A close analysis of contemporary and historical extraction of Caspian oil and its transportation, via pipeline and tanker, to central Europe, frames an investigation into interrelationships between the organization and conditioning of European societies and their fuel mobility systems. For the fuel used for contemporary mobility systems relies on the mobility systems of fuel. The article examines the governmental and capital structures that have driven oil consumption growth since the 1870s, enabled the powering of geopolitics and determined the spatiality of carbonized sociotechnical systems. It unpacks the current forces that resist any shift away from this petroculture, any ‘powering down’ of society.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414540726|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414540726
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • The United States and Alternative Energies since 1980: Technological Fix
           or Regime Change?
    • Authors: Nye; D. E.
      Pages: 103 - 125
      Abstract: Awareness of global warming has been widespread for two decades, yet the American political system has been slow to respond. This essay examines, first, political explanations for policy failure, focusing at the federal level and outlining both short-term partisan and structural explanations for the stalemate. The second section surveys previous energy regimes and the transitions between them, and policy failure is explained by the logic of Thomas Hughes’s ‘technological momentum’. The third section moves to an international perspective, using the Kaya Identity and its distinction between energy intensity and carbon intensity to understand in policy terms ‘technological fixes’ vs. low-carbon alternatives. The final section reframes US energy policy failure and asks: (1) Why, between 1980 and 1999, was America’s actual performance in slowing CO2 emissions better than its politics would seem capable of delivering? (2) How and why has the United States since c. 2007 managed to reduce per capita CO2 emissions?
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414537314|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414537314
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • Global Energy Cultures of Speed and Lightness: Materials, Mobilities and
           Transnational Power
    • Authors: Sheller; M.
      Pages: 127 - 154
      Abstract: Following aluminum as part of a material culture of speed and lightness, this article examines how assemblages of energy and metals connect built environments, ways of life, and ideologies of acceleration. Aluminum can be theorized as a circulatory matrix that forms an energy culture. Through a discussion of speed and social justice, the history of aluminium-based socioecologies reveals how the materiality of energy forms assemblages of objects, infrastructures, and practices. The article then traces the aluminum industry’s involvement in the production and distribution of energy itself both at the national scale of power grids and in the emergence of transnational transfers of energy, such as hydropowered smelters in Iceland. Finally, this analysis of deeply embedded energy cultures calls for a transnational approach to the accelerated socioecologies of aluminum production and consumption; and for energy transition theories to pay closer attention to the figured worlds and figuring work of the military-industrial complex.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414537909|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414537909
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • The Food-Energy-Climate Change Trilemma: Toward a Socio-Economic Analysis
    • Authors: Harvey; M.
      Pages: 155 - 182
      Abstract: The food-energy-climate change trilemma refers to the stark alternatives presented by the need to feed a world population growing to nine billion, the attendant risks of land conversion and use for global climate change, and the way these are interconnected with the energy crisis arising from the depletion of oil. Theorizing the interactions between political economies and their related natural environments, in terms of both finitudes of resources and generation of greenhouse gases, presents a major challenge to social sciences. Approaches from classical political economy, transition theory, economic geography, and political ecology, are reviewed before elaborating the neo-Polanyian approach adopted here. The case of Brazil, analysed with an `instituted economic process’ framework, demonstrates how the trilemma is a spatial and historical socio-economic phenomenon, varying significantly in its dynamics in different environmental and resource contexts. The paper concludes by highlighting challenges to developing a social scientific theory in this field.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414537317|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414537317
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • Visioning a Sustainable Energy Future: The Case of Urban Food-Growing
    • Authors: Biel; R.
      Pages: 183 - 202
      Abstract: This article outlines a future where society re-energizes itself, in the sense both of recapturing creative dynamism and of applying creativity to meeting physical energy needs. Both require us to embrace self-organizing properties, whether in nature or society. The author critically appraises backcasting as a methodology for visioning, arguing that backcasting’s potential for radical, outside-the-box thinking is restricted unless it contemplates a break with class society, connects with existing grassroots struggles (notably over land) and dialogues with the utopian socialist tradition. The article develops a case study of food, starting from the physical parameters of combating the entropy expressed in the loss of soil structure, and applies this to urban food-growing. Drawing upon ‘real utopias’ of existing practice, the author proposes a threefold categorization – subsistence plots, an urban forest, and an ultra-high productivity sector – and emphasizes the emergent properties of such a complex system characterized by the ‘free energy’ of societal self-organization.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414536624|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414536624
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
  • Combustion and Society: A Fire-Centred History of Energy Use
    • Authors: Clark, N; Yusoff, K.
      Pages: 203 - 226
      Abstract: Fire is a force that links everyday human activities to some of the most powerful energetic movements of the Earth. Drawing together the energy-centred social theory of Georges Bataille, the fire-centred environmental history of Stephen Pyne, and the work of a number of ‘pyrotechnology’ scholars, the paper proposes that the generalized study of combustion is a key to contextualizing human energetic practices within a broader ‘economy’ of terrestrial and cosmic energy flows. We examine the relatively recent turn towards fossil-fuelled ‘internal combustion’ in the light of a much longer human history of ‘broadcast’ burning of vegetation and of artisanal pyrotechnologies – the use of heat to transform diverse materials. A combustion-centred analysis, it is argued, brings human collective life into closer contact with the geochemical and geologic conditions of earthly existence, while also pointing to the significance of explorative, experimental and even playful dispositions towards energy and matter.
      PubDate: 2014-08-21T20:46:45-07:00
      DOI: 10.1177/0263276414536929|hwp:master-id:sptcs;0263276414536929
      Issue No: Vol. 31, No. 5 (2014)
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