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Nudging Evolution?

Katharine N. Farrell, Division of Resource Economics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Andreas Thiel, Temporary Professorship for Environmental Governance, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


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This Special Feature, “Nudging Evolution? Critical Exploration of the Potential and Limitations of the Concept of Institutional Fit for the Study and Adaptive Management of Social-Ecological Systems,” aims to contribute toward the development of social theory and social research methods for the study of social-ecological system dynamics. Our objective is to help strengthen the academic discourse concerning if, and if so, how, to what extent, and in what concrete ways the concept of institutional “fit” might play a role in helping to develop better understanding of the social components of interlinkages between the socioeconomic-cultural and ecological dynamics of social-ecological systems. Two clearly discernible patterns provide a map of this Special Feature: (1) One pattern is the authors’ positions regarding the place and role of normativity within their studies and assessment of institutional fit. Some place this at the center of their studies, exploring phenomena endogenous to the process of defining what constitutes institutional fit, whereas others take the formation of norms as a phenomenon exogenous to their study. (2) Another pattern is the type of studies presented: critiques and elaborations of the theory, methods for judging qualities of fit, and/or applied case studies using the concept. As a body of work, these contributions highlight that self-understanding of social-ecological place, whether explicit or implicit, constitutes an important part of the study object, i.e., the role of institutions in social-ecological systems, and that this is, at the same time, a crucial point of reference for the scholar wishing to evaluate what constitutes institutional fit and how it might be brought into being.

Key words

adaptive management; environmental governance; institutional change; institutional fit; meaning; Oran Young; protected areas; social-ecological systems; social norms; water governance; wildlife management

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087