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Free Content Towards a Historical Understanding of Critical Raw Materials: Suggestions from a History of Technology Perspective

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Does the current debate on critical raw materials have precursors in history and is there anything we can learn from it? Notably during industrialization, certain materials were considered important to further development and at the same time prone to scarcity. A history of technology perspective shows how such considerations shaped material change.

The current debate on critical raw materials lacks a historical dimension. While the idea of identifying certain raw materials as particularly problematic ‐ and therefore critical ‐ to future development is not a new one, a historical perspective has not yet been systematically integrated into the debate. This article explores concepts from history of technology to make suggestions about how we can better understand the ways in which reflection triggers and shapes material change.

It discusses the concepts of social construction of technology (SCOT) and the development of technological systems, applying them to the debates on the criticality of wood and limestone during the age of industrialization.
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Keywords: critical raw materials; history of raw materials; social construction of technology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • GAIA is a peer-reviewed inter- and transdisciplinary journal for scientists and other interested parties concerned with the causes and analyses of environmental and sustainability problems and their solutions.

    Environmental problems cannot be solved by one academic discipline. The complex natures of these problems require cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. Since 1991, GAIA has offered a well-balanced and practice-oriented forum for transdisciplinary research. GAIA offers first-hand information on state of the art environmental research and on current solutions to environmental problems. Well-known editors, advisors, and authors work to ensure the high quality of the contributions found in GAIA and a unique transdisciplinary dialogue – in a comprehensible style.

    GAIA is an ISI-journal, listed in the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Science Citation Index and in Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    All contributions undergo a double-blind peer review.

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