New paper critiques a leading theory in the field of sustainability transitions

A new paper written by Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED) Co-Director Professor Steve Sorrell, takes a critical look at the foundational assumptions of the so-called ‘Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) on sociotechnical transitions’.

The MLP is a widely used theory for explaining long-run, transformational change in energy, transport and other systems. Steve examines this theory from the perspective of critical realism – an increasingly influential philosophy of science.

Professor Sorrell argues that, from this perspective, the MLP has a number of important weaknesses, including the ambiguous definition of key concepts, such as ‘systems’ and ‘regimes’, the overemphasis on internal ‘rules’ and the lack of attention to competing explanations. He provides some suggestions on how the theory could be developed, including an alternative, critical realist interpretation of sociotechnical systems.

To find out more, read the full paper.