Putting the Power in ‘Socio-Technical Regimes’ – E-Mobility Transition in China as Political Process

Journal Article

Mobilities, Volume 9, Issue 4, 2014 (Special Issue: Mobilities & Foucault)
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A mobility low-carbon transition is a key issue both socially and for mobilities research. The multi-level perspective (MLP) is justifiably a leading approach in such research, with important connections to high-profile socio-technical systemic analyses within the mobilities paradigm.

The paper explores the key contributions that a Foucauldian-inspired cultural political economy offers, going beyond central problems with the MLP, specifically regarding: a productive concept of power that affords analysis of the qualitatively novel and dynamic process of transition; and the incorporation of the exogenous ‘landscape’ into the analysis. This move thus resonates with growing calls for attention to power dynamics in mobilities research and a ‘structural’ turn.

In making this case, we deploy the key case study of contemporary efforts towards mobility transition in China. This not only sets out more starkly the importance of MLP’s gaps but also provides an empirical case to illustrate, albeit in the form of informed speculation, possible routes to low-carbon urban mobility transition and the inseparability from broader qualitative power transitions at multiple scales, including the global.

This article is published as part of the STEPS affiliated project Low carbon innovation in China – Prospects, Politics and Practice