Sustainability transitions and final consumption: Practices and socio-technical systems

Andrew McMeekin*, Dale Southerton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

172 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the significance of final consumption processes for understandings of prospective transitions towards more sustainable societies. It argues that most existing conceptualisations either place too much emphasis on technology or on 'consumer behaviour', ignoring the deeply intertwined relationships between the two. After briefly reviewing recent contributions to the technology-oriented multi-level perspective (MLP) and to social scientific explanations of 'behavioural change', we outline a practice-based approach to understanding final consumption and sustainability. Practice-based approaches reveal processes of reproduction (stasis) and change in forms of consumption, which we argue present conceptual insights into sustainability transitions. By examining the tensions and crossovers between the MLP and practice-based approaches to consumption, three specific forms of interaction are identified for further conceptual and empirical exploration: the social relations of consumption; co-dependent changes in production and consumption; and, technologies, practices and consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-361
Number of pages17
JournalTechnology Analysis and Strategic Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • final consumption
  • multi-level perspectives
  • sociotechnical systems
  • sustainability transitions
  • theories of practice


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