Your browser has javascript turned off or blocked. This will lead to some parts of our website to not work properly or at all. Turn on javascript for best performance.

The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Default user image.

Mirek Dymitrow

Postdoctoral fellow

Default user image.

Atavism, layering and subversion: Understanding great social challenges of today through the lens of cultural contingents


  • Mirek Dymitrow
  • Rene Brauer
  • Slobodan Arsovski
  • Jadwiga Biegańska

Summary, in English

Great social challenges of today no longer come one by one. What makes them great is their ever-greater entanglement in one other and across multiple levels, including landscapes, regimes and niches. To this background, a major challenge facing many countries today is how to successfully address issues of interlocking problems of unsustainability caused by cultural contingents. We argue that while the social problems of today have gone wicked, we still imagine them as if they were tame. Tame approaches to wicked problems, in turn, are likely to spawn “wicked solutions”, i.e. purported counteractions that are so conceptually unsuitable for the problem at hand that they can even overwhelm the wickedness of the wicked problem. This makes it so much more difficult to resolve. In this paper, we present three conspicuous examples in this dimension: cultural atavism, artificial layering and pathological subversion. We argue that acknowledging wicked solutions as different from wicked problems is a first step to mitigate the daunting effects that may arise when the two intertwine.


  • Department of Human Geography

Publishing year







Geographical Reviews



Document type

Journal article


  • Human Geography


  • unsustainability
  • great social challenges
  • wicked problems
  • wicked solutions
  • cultural contingents




  • ISSN: 1409-908X