Resistance and resilience: the challenges for constructing benign path dependency in the automotive industry

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Wells, Peter


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2011)


change resistance, fragmentation, innovation, path dependency


This paper argues that there is a powerful tendency among all social actors concerned with the future trajectory of the global automotive industry to identify, isolate and often exaggerate change. It is further argued that while the recent economic crisis was seen by some as the opportunity to introduce radical ecological-economic reforms premised on sustainability, in practice it provided the clearest evidence yet of the intransigence of existing practices. The paper therefore analyses the empirical evidence for technological and systemic transformations in the automotive industry. It is concluded that via resistance and absorption, the observable processes are as much about fragmentation and divergence as they are about systemic change. In turn, it is concluded that constructing benign path dependency is a significantly greater policy challenge than is often assumed. At a theoretical level, it is concluded that greater attention must be paid to understanding how change can be ameliorated, deflected, nullified, deferred and postponed. Moreover, theoretical expectations of systemic change need a greater emphasis on the way in which transformation as a process means that many existing practices and structures are retained more or less intact rather than entirely replaced by new practices and structures while new practices may need to be diverse rather than seeking ‘one best way’.

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