The Potential for Sustainable Production and Consumption in a Technological Society

  • Anne-Marie ColesEmail author
Part of the The Anthropocene: Politik—Economics—Society—Science book series (APESS, volume 3)


The French philosopher Jacques Ellul articulated the concept of the technological society in 1954 to describe the deeply interwoven relationship between social, cultural, economic, political and technical factors that exists in mature industrial societies. Some commentators have seen a continuing role for this concept pertinent to understanding the broad social dynamics of technological change. This chapter draws on current commentary to investigate the implications for change in existing processes of production and consumption through sustainable innovation. It reviews current thinking in the social studies of technology to identify the ways in which discourses of sustainable innovation might not transform socio-technical systems in the manner conceived by proponents. It identifies how technical characteristics relating to sustainable performance of a particular artefact could fail to transfer from artefact to system or from innovation to widespread adoption and use. In conclusion, it is suggested that calls for sustainable innovation represent part of the ‘business as usual’ operations of a technological society.


Boundary spanning Discourse Jacques Ellul Social change Sustainable innovation Technological change Technological society 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GreenwichLondonUK

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