Generative Entrenchment and transitions: an explicit model of systemic dependences and developmental histories (with the example of electrification)
Paper in proceedings, 2015
Central to sustainability transition research is the question of how sociotechnical systems can be made to transition in desirable ways that are unlikely to result spontaneously or through the use of existing policy levers. A basic premise here is that such systems exhibit path-dependency, and it is therefore of utmost importance to understand how novel organization scaffolds innovation back again; a strongly non-linear dynamics intermixing qualitative and quantitative change. We here present a preliminary exploration of the Generative Entrenchment model, which originates from modern developmental evolutionary theory, to further our understanding of the underlying dynamics of innovation and transitions. Generative Entrenchment builds upon the simple principle that older elements tend to have developed more downstream interdependencies and that they therefore tend to become generalized and strongly conserved: changing them is hard since so many other things depend on them. The aim is to begin providing a new conceptual tool for making systemic dependences and intra-systemic processes more explicit. The ideas are illustrated and exemplified using a historic case study on the electrification of the United States.