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What if…

In a WIREs opinion piece, O'Brien suggests that we may be underestimating our capacity to transform society at the rate and scale that is called for by climate change science and mandated by the 2015 Paris Agreement.Read More

Do we actually know how social change can come about? Is the future just linear projections of business-as-usual or are there potentials for conscious and intentional transformations to sustainability. In the newly published article “Climate change and social transformations ” in WIREs Climate Change, Karen O’Brien asks wether it is time to open up to new paradigms for social change. Drawing on the emerging field of quantum social theory she draws attention to the metaphysical and ontological questions about what is really real.

The article takes current understandings of social change as a starting point, pointing out that climate change mitigation is based on the “assumptions of classical physics, where agents are discrete individuals or self- interested states that interact through local causation, with little or no role for subjectivity, consciousness, intentionality, and free will”.  O’Brien argues that current approaches, whether rational choice theory, game theory, or approaches to global commons and public goods problems, consider the social world as ultimately deterministic. The question remains, are humans as predictable as matter and material?

O’Brien encourages us to continually ask ourselves, ‘what if we got it wrong?’ We are the more likely to become aware of the role and significance of subjectivity, meaning and collective human agency, and the potentials for transformative social change. Quantum social theory is a fascinating emerging paradigm that can shed light on people as the solutions to climate change.

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