Resilience Through Relocalisation: Ecocultures of Transition?

Energy Saving Show, Richmondshire Eco Week, Yorkshire. Photo: Transition Richmond Yorkshire.

Resilience Through Relocalisation: Ecocultures of Transition? Transition to a post-carbon, post-consumer society: new, traditional and alternative ways of living in the ‘adjacent possible’.

Stephen Quilley 

The full text is available for download using the link below / right.

Abstract: The paper provides an overview of the Transition movement, exploring the relationship between the positive bottom-up approach to capacity building and the ontology of civilizational collapse.  As a vision of the good life, Transition is seen as an attempt by typically liberal, cosmopolitan and connected individuals to parachute into smaller, face-to-face, place-bound communities with greater capacity for resilience in uncertain times. The psychological structures and belief systems characteristic of complex ‘gesellschaftlich’ societies are contrasted with those implied by the project of relocalisation. The ‘peverse resilience’ of existing food provisioning and manufacturing systems is explored as an obstacle to the emergence of more resilient systems at lower spatial scales.  Using the evocative phrase the ‘great reskilling’, Transition successfully articulates the kind of technologies, knowledge and skills which will have value for a post-fossil fuel, more localised economy – a world made by hand. The Transition skills agenda also taps into a wider current of disaffection with meaningless consumerism and a resurgence of interest in both traditional crafts and the ‘maker’ approach to technology exemplified by the culture of ‘hacking.’   However, this counterculture not withstanding, the ‘prefigurative’ Transition skill-set  is miniscule relative to the overall scale of the economy  and the prospective needs of relocalized economies. There are real challenges to re-creating it from scratch, particularly in advance of any structural collapse, in the absence of local demand and in competition with the conventional economy. The paper goes on to discuss the social, political and cultural obstacles to the project of  resilience through relocalization, the problem of scale in constructing Transition communities and the tension between mobilising effective we-identities without abandoning liberal and cosmopolitan emphasis on diversity and tolerance. Finally it is suggested that given the degree of systemic interdependence, the vision of local, community-level resilience must be married with a broader strategy for transforming global production systems.

Stephen Quilley

About the author: Although Senior Lecturer in Environmental Politics at Keele University [] Stephen Quilley is technically a sociologist, having worked previously at University College Dublin (1999-2005) and the ESRC Centre for Research on Innovation and Competition in Manchester (1997-1999). With academic research interests ranging from the historical sociology of Norbert Elias to the long term dynamics of human ecology, Stephen is also working on policy-related projects relating to sustainability, urban regeneration, food systems, resilience and social-ecological innovation. Working closely with colleagues in Canada, Quilley has Associate Faculty status with Social Innovation Generation (SiG) at the University of Waterloo and is an Affiliate Researcher at the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation. A sponsor ofOpen Source Ecology [], he is also interested in education as a vehicle to create a society of proactive makers, menders, bodgers and builders – a vision he is trying to integrate into a new model of university education (