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Transition coalitions: toward a theory of transformative just transitions

From its origins in the labor and environmental justice movements in the United States, the concept of a just transition has travelled globally as a frame to infuse concerns of justice in public responses to escalating environmental crises. However, important gaps remain in terms of understanding the potential of transition efforts to be transformative in shifting the political economic structures that cause, sustain, and deepen injustices. This article asks: what does critical sociological theory of power and social change offer for understanding the features of transformative transition coalitions as compared to those that reinforce environmental, social, and economic inequality? To this purpose, I apply insights from Antonio Gramsci and Karl Polanyi, contemporary scholars who use their theory, and environmental justice scholars to identify the means and form of transformative just transition coalitions. I identify two respective conditions of transformative coalitions: strategic power and embedded relations. Through this lens, I describe four transition coalition types: status quo, impeded, disembedded, and transformative, and discuss related examples.

Resource Details

Author(s): David Ciplet
Date: 8/24/22
Resource Type: Publication
Topic: Organizing

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