Critical Junctures: Challenges and Opportunities for a ‘Great Green Transformation’

International Workshop

Jointly organised by the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research, University of Duisburg-Essen and the Governance of Green Transition Network, University of Copenhagen

6–7 December 2021 - non-public


Concept Note

It has become increasingly clear that ecological breakdown is not merely a physical phenomenon but is in fact driven by human social organization and prevailing/hegemonic social institutions. This approach starts with the premise that there is a 'need to understand how societies might collectively address climate change' (Newell and Paterson 2010: 7 emphasis in the original), high- lighting the significant role for research pertaining to global cooperation.

Many have likewise noted the criticality of addressing the distinction between transitional changes in social/economic institutions and transformational changes to societal development. Drawing on the language of Karl Polanyi, analysts increasingly converge on the notion that the present situation calls not for discrete socio-technical transitions, but rather for a ‘great green transformation’ of core economic, political, and cultural formations. In this sense, the climate and ecological crises presents humanity with a ‘critical juncture.’

This workshop aimes to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars whose work contributes to these discussions in important ways. The overarching theoretical framework of transitions/transformations (Polanyi) combine with an empirically-grounded ambition to elicit analyses of insipient signs of transformational change, and also studies of social inertia that may be preventing action. Such can be brought together in forms of ‘conjunctural analysis’ (Stuart Hall), whereby analysts attempt to read hegemonic projects and counter-hegemonic tendencies with a view to their short- and long-term implications for change.

The broader goals are to provide the space for robust engagement with the assumptions  and realities of ‘green transformations’ including a critical treatment of what it would mean to think about ‘post-growth’ futures. What are the limitations and possibilities, for example, of the nation state in facilitating such transformations? What is happening on the ground in specific locations – in agriculture, energy cooperatives, workplaces, activist camps, inter- national organizations, earth systems governance, and so on – as people work toward more sustainable futures?

We see this as a collaborative process of sharing current research that is empirically grounded and providing an opportunity to discuss the various assumptions and theories that undergird debates about ‘green transformations.’