Sustainability cultures and energy research: An actor-centred interpretation of cultural theory
The energy cultures framework has had widespread use in studies of the energy-related implications of habitual behaviour and behaviour change, and to other topics including mobility, water and carbon-related outcomes. As a heuristic that has become widely used because it helps researchers to make sense of how cultural formations influence sustainability outcomes, it is timely to explore its relationship to cultural theory. I discuss the origins and applications of the framework and elaborate its underpinning concepts about the relationship between cultural formations and sustainability outcomes. I contrast these concepts with cultural theory and conclude that the sustainability cultures approach has similar roots to practice theory, but diverges at several key points. The actor-centred articulation of cultural attributes and their outcomes, with its main focus on actors’ agency in cultural change, contrasts with practice theory’s view of actors as ‘carriers’ of routine practices. It aligns most closely with Bourdieu’s habitus although more substantial theoretical enquiry is needed to explore linkages to Bourdieu’s interest in praxis. Sustainability cultures offers an approach to investigating the significant cultural changes that will be required for a sustainable future.
Keywords: Culture; Energy transition; Social change; Sustainability
Research Type: Journal Article
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