The Relational Sociology of Shaping Eco-Innovations
Martin David, Dr. Alena Bleicher, Magdalena Wallkamm
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Until today the concept of eco-innovation lacks societal contextualization and most eco-innovation concepts lopsidedly focus on technological aspects and market integration. This means that important process-categories of societal imbedding of eco-innovation like innovation prologues and changing stakeholder perspectives over time are mostly kept out of the focus. The meaning of such changing societal interdependencies has been discussed in sociology,however, so far it remains unclear how changing societal bonds relate into establishing eco-innovations. Questions arise in this regard which can be rooted to relational sociology, focusing on collective, societal interdependent trajectories of the development of eco-innovations and their translation into stakeholder positions.
Within this presentation we will take the example of the development of a sustainable resource strategy in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg and examine patterns of societal interdependencies and controversies. This resource strategy can be understood as an eco-innovation, since it focusses on new environmental friendly practices such as green industrial growth and recycling.
Controversies arose over the efficiency-oriented green growth strategy from a degrowth-perspective, but also over questions of participation of civil society representatives within the process of strategy development. In regard to interdependencies and evolving controversies the lens of relational sociology helps because it depicts on social bonds of actors to each other and to society. Since the aim of the process was not to focus on consensus, but to highlight facets and positions of participating actor groups, this case study provides meaningful insights on how eco-innovation is societally conceptualized and how social interdependencies of participating parties translate into innovation-processes.
 Elias, Norbert. 1978. What is Sociology?, Columbia University Press.