Energy Systems and Energy-Related Practices

  • David S. ByrneEmail author
  • Françoise Bartiaux
Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


In this chapter we attempt to synthesize two relevant bodies of social theory which can be used to understand how human beings—consumers, distributors, producers, and regulators—act in relation to energy systems. The two key words are actions and systems. Practice theories deal with how social life is constituted by practices, or is a product thereof, and with how “people perform the actions that compose practices” (Schatzki 2015: 27). Complexity theory is a general framework of reference which deals with systems which are emergent in character: that is to say they cannot be understood by an analytical programme which seeks to explain them in terms of the properties of their components taken alone. Our approach here is to begin with two sections which in somewhat brutal summary outline the essentials of social theories of practices and complexity theory. We then continue with a discussion of practice and action to show how they are interrelated into a web of interconnected practices. In a similar vein we develop a complexity theory founded discussion of the constraining and enabling role of systems. We then proceed to attempt a synthesis of practice theory and complexity theory with specific reference to how such a synthesis can help us to understand and shape the whole emergent complex system which incorporates institutions and humans and is reconstructed or reshaped by the interaction of all of these entities in daily life. On the basis of this synthesis we will try to make some policy recommendations which will really be about how policy makers should understand what they are trying to influence because such an understanding is foundational to effective intervention.


Social Practice Complexity Theory Causal Power Actor Network Theory Practice Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Applied Social SciencesDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  2. 2.Institute of Analysis of Contemporary and Historical SocietiesUniversité Catholique de Louvain and National Fund for Scientific ResearchLouvainBelgium

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