Towards an integral perspective on leveraging sustainability transformations using the theory of modal aspects

Wigboldus, S.A.; Jochemsen, H.


Engaging appropriately with sustainability transformations requires adopting an integral perspective on related system dynamics. This view underpins the sustainable development goals. Informing policy and decision making from a consistently integral perspective, however, remains a key challenge. To some extent, the leverage points approach has proved useful in doing so in terms of providing an encompassing view on related options for intervening in systems. There are, however, a number of points in which it needs to be complemented by other approaches to better address the need for an integral perspective on sustainability transformations as well as to better address the need for being able to articulate normative perspectives on transformation processes and outcomes. We argue that the theory of modal aspects is a good candidate for doing so. To illustrate its potential, we explore its characteristics, we illustrate its application opportunities in the analysis of sustainability in food systems transitions, we systematically compare leverage points and modal aspects, and close with an exploration of ways in which the leverage points approach and theory of modal aspects can be considered complementary perspectives. The authors conclude that the theory of modal aspects offers opportunities for enriching both the leverage points approach and wider approaches in sustainability transformations by offering a consistently integral perspective across scale levels, and by offering a number of ways of engaging with normativity in related processes without resorting to fixed political views. This articulates its potential for playing a useful role in related multi-stakeholder processes and sustainability governance.