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Sustainability 2016, 8(7), 645; doi:10.3390/su8070645
2. An Introduction to Paradigms
- Scientific paradigms encapsulate those paradigms held by scientists and professionals in both the natural and social sciences. Thomas Kuhn popularised the concept of paradigm in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” . Kuhn postulated that science goes through alternating periods of stability and changeability—in which a combination of factors, such as the emergence of new contradictory evidence and the availability of alternative plausible hypotheses, may coincide to provide more favourable conditions for the shift to a new paradigm. Social science paradigms represent a subset of scientific paradigms but with a greater tendency toward numerous competing paradigms, reflecting different worldviews and models of how society will respond to a given intervention. They in many respects reflect the complexity and diversity in human behaviour, with different models being relevant depending on the context.
- Socio-cultural paradigms, which represent the remaining non-technical ideologies, beliefs, and values of society. The concept of socio-cultural paradigms as defined here represents a particular philosophy of life or a framework of ideas, beliefs and values through which a community or an individual interprets the world and interacts with it. The term is often reflected in (and reflects) religion and political ideology. It is quite common for there to be a number of socio-cultural paradigms within society, apparently competing and contradicting one another. Socio-cultural paradigms have the capacity to create their own stability when collectively held; with observable behaviour reinforcing the prevailing worldview. Culture and cultural differences are essential in permitting the co-existence of greatly different worldviews. The important difference between socio-cultural paradigms and social science paradigms is that the judgments and models used by social scientists are subject to review and challenge about the degree to which they reflect how the world works, unlike the beliefs underlying socio-cultural paradigms, which need not be.
2.1. Paradigms, Sustainability and Discourse
2.2. Understanding the Process of Paradigm Change
2.2.1. Changes within Scientific Paradigms
2.2.2. Changes within Social-Cultural Paradigms
2.2.3. Changes within Policy Paradigms
3. Our Approach to Paradigm Analysis
- An awareness within the policy development community of its own paradigm context and an appreciating that the policy it develops will need to be tailored to the paradigm context that it seeks to act upon.
- An assessment of previous relevant discourses to understand how resistance might emerge due to differing worldviews. The approach to this analysis has been outlined here, with the full methodology and results of the analysis being the subject of another article in this special issue .
- A review and potential revision of the policy proposals based on an understanding of the paradigm level concerns and the paradigm change envisaged. The resulting revisions might include re-packaging, or sequencing of the policies into policy pathways, which seek to change the underlying basis under which future policy will be received and understood.
3.1. Awareness of the Paradigm Context within Which Policy Is Being Developed
3.2. The Importance of the Paradigm Context within Which the Policy Is Being Implemented
- The Economic bonanza scenario includes technological breakthroughs and a focus on increased production and consumption. The economic efficiency and growth are high but global competition over some scarce resources becomes fierce.
- The Safe globe scenario is characterized by a high rate of technological and social innovation with a focus on the safety and well-being of all humanity, future generations, and nature. Most individuals strive for close social bonds and cultural achievements, rather than economic wealth and social norms are strong, making it difficult for companies and politicians to take actions that risk significantly harming the environment.
- The Divided we trudge scenario is characterized by a lack of cooperation, increased nationalism in Europe, diminished knowledge transfer between stakeholders and countries, a low rate of innovation. Economic growth is sluggish despite a materialistic focus on production and consumption.
- The Back to nature scenario focuses on societal values and well-being of all humanity, future generations, and nature and less so in on technological innovation. Characterized by distrust in experts and advanced technology, small-scale solutions and more local decision making.
- Under a safe globe scenario, policy can work within more favourable combinations of paradigms and assume high innovation and a collaborative paradigm context.
- In a back-to-nature type context, policy makers need not necessarily require policy packages that seek more economic growth. This is because under this scenario the population would have come to focus on well-being over GDP, and therefore could accept policy outcomes that do not necessarily deliver positive growth in GDP, and would reject policies that seek economic growth and the cost of social or environmental capital. Within this scenario, policy may need to promote ‘green-innovation’ to ensure that resources are used efficiently enough to maintain sustainability thresholds.
- Under the economic bonanza scenario, high levels of innovation offer the technological and social means for green growth but high levels of materialism-driven consumption means that it is less likely that sustainable levels of resource use are achieved. The policy choices under this scenario context are to either implement far-reaching price-based policy measures intended to cap consumption (but risk social-regressivity), or social engagement leading to paradigm change.
- Under the divided we trudge scenario, intervention would need to involve attempts at paradigm change. Under this paradigm context, the desire for consumption would be too great and the levels of innovation and cooperation too low to be at all likely to be environmentally sustainable.
3.3. Understanding the Existing Paradigm System and How Resistance Can Emerge from This
- Why might the proposed policy fail if implemented at present?
- Is there a top-down barrier (within the existing relevant political authorities, business interests or institutions) to implementing this? If so, what form does these take (including any business lobbying interest)?
- Is there a corresponding bottom-up resistance (from within the public and civil society) to its successful implementation? What value or behaviour is being threatened?
- Is there an established channel of discourse between policy and society on this issue? If so, who initiated the discourse and what form did it take?
- Are there envisaged “natural” (or counter-factual) processes of change, which would significantly change this situation? That is, are any of the contextual issues from question 1 likely to change within the foreseeable future (i.e., change of government) or are there long-term processes of social change, which would change these circumstances, notably occurring in the absence of political intervention?
- Using the responses to the questions above, what contextual changes would need to occur over time to make the policy implementable?
3.4. Plotting out a Pathway for Paradigm Change and Policy Sequencing Strategy
4. Conclusions and Recommendations
- Become aware of the worldviews and paradigms of all those inputting into the policy formulation, including your own and those supporting you. Failure to do so risks disconnect and a reactionary discourse. There is the potential for people’s socio-cultural paradigms (and therefore behaviour) to be influenced by the worldview messages communicated within the way that policies are constructed and are communicated. Those developing policy also need to be aware that the scope for changes in socio-cultural paradigms perceived achievable can become limited by one’s own worldview perspective. Policymakers therefore need to think and work within the paradigm that they wish to promote, ensuring that those who support them through research and consultancy contracts are aware of this.
- Policies must be sensitive to the current paradigm; policies which out-step the boundary of current thinking, behaviour, values and beliefs are more likely to be met with significant or prohibitive resistance from target groups, policy makers themselves and/or the wider public in general, making them politically unfeasible. Use the approach as outlined here and reported in Bicket and Vanner .
- Choose words, concepts, discourses and rhetoric carefully. The understanding of terms and concepts such as “green growth” or “sustainability” may differ subtly between different groups and stakeholders in society; they are riddled with preconceptions, various associations and incite biases for or against.
- Frame the change in the context of a wider transition over the longer-term and highlight where equivalent paradigm shifts have occurred. Highlight where possible how equivalent paradigm shifts have occurred in the past in particular sectors (e.g., in transport, telecommunications). Most change at the paradigm level can often have short-term and very visible costs (e.g., job losses, factory closures) and theoretical benefits more in the future.
- Use policy sequencing of softer measures, such as voluntary schemes, to introduce the concept change required. Sequencing of policies permits people to try and experience what a different system feels like and how it works in practice.
- Beware the trade-off with effectiveness, avoid sidestepping difficult paradigms, and where necessary, be prepared to invest considerable political capital. Often the most challenging and needed paradigm changes will provide a political return on the investment with ‘interest’ but it will not come without political risks.
Conflicts of Interest
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|Concept||(a) Mean Effectiveness||(b) Mean Feasibility||Mean Effectiveness & Feasibility (a + b)/2||Champions||# of Groups that Considered Concept||Champions per # of Groups Considered|
|Reliance on Markets||3.3||4.0||3.6||2||4||0.5|
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