This book builds on a number of earlier efforts to comprehend the relations among science, technology, and the politics of the environment. It was in a research program on Technology and Culture in the early 1980s that I first encountered what I have come to see as a fundamental, and highly debilitating, bifurcation in the ways in which these matters are understood, both in the academy as well as in the world outside. In the industrialized countries of the North, our perspectives have been dominated by the hegemony of a technocratic world-view, which posits a global technological imperative, propelling the world forward in a never-ending pursuit of newness and innovation and progress. In the early 1980s, the technocrats were beginning to reassert themselves after being on the defensive through much of the previous decade. Economists, for example, were rediscovering the writings of Joseph Schumpeter and engineers were envisioning cleaner technologies and the dawning of an information society. At the Research Policy Institute at the University of Lund, where I was working, several economists were joining together to develop what has since become a substantial sub-field of business economics: innovation studies and technology management.
In Asia, and particularly in India, where Erik Baark and I traveled together in 1983 as part of the research program, there was, on the other hand, an equally noticeable skepticism toward the wonders of science and technology, which we came to think of as a multifaceted cultural critique of technology. In India, and other developing countries, science and technology were not so much seen as providing solutions to environmental and social ills as being themselves a major part of the problem. The "paradigm," or interpretive lens through which the world was seen tended to be cultural and critical, and the frameworks of understanding were drawn from such academic subjects as history and anthropology, philosophy and psychology, as well as from the ideas of those intellectuals who were articulating the messages of critical movements. In India, for instance, the teachings and broader "experiments with life" of Mahatma Gandhi had become cultural resources that were drawn upon by just about everyone who concerned themselves with science, technology, and environmental issues (Elzinga and Jamison 1986). In a very active and noticeable way, history was being mobilized in the ongoing struggles to develop more "appropriate" technologies and strategies for socio-economic development that tried to meet what at the time were referred to as basic human needs.
This bifurcation of the disparate field of science, technology, and society studies has continued in the years since, and, in most parts of the world, the economists and the rest of us have more or less parted company. We now tend to be housed in different academic departments, usually in different faculties, adopting different terminologies and concepts to characterize the relations between science, technology, and society. And we usually speak to different audiences and relate to different segments of the public when we try to apply the fruits of our understandings to policy-making and political discussions.
In the 1980s, as the naive young researchers we were, Erik Baark and I tried to link the two sides together in one comprehensive framework of understanding. Rather than exclusively adopt only one of the available terminologies or discourses we tried to combine them, to bring them together. The economists and the cultural critics, we suggested, were interested in different aspects of the same all-encompassing process, or problematic, and it could be valuable if at least some of us tried to "grasp the whole" and take account of perspectives from both the economic and the cultural point of view. The general idea that we came up with was that scientific and technological developments are best seen in cyclical terms, whereby periods of growth and expansion are followed by periods of stagnation and crisis, the two sides informing and influencing each other in complicated ways (Baark and Jamison 1986).
If we look into the past we see that periods of decline, in technological and economic terms, have also been periods of radical reconstruction in cultural terms. Cultural critique and critical movements have often inspired a broad reexamination, or assessment, process that has, in turn, contributed to the formulation of new criteria for knowledge-making and new forms of scientific and technological practice. The "long waves" of development that the economists were studying seemed to be followed by waves of critique and "counterculture" - something like what we had experienced in the 1960s and 1970s.
It was to help understand these cyclical relations that Ron Eyerman and I developed our cognitive approach to social movements, which was inspired by the writings of the French social theorist Alain Touraine and the Italian sociologist Alberto Melucci. Touraine has continually stressed the importance of the redefinitions of reality that take place in social movements. For him, it is the struggle to define "historicity" and the articulation of new scenarios for the future, new historical projects, that is central to social movements (Touraine 1981, 1985). Fundamental to the "new social movement" theory that Touraine developed is the recognition that, aside from the actual political struggles, there is also a cultural struggle, the making, or construction, of a collective identity, taking place in the new movements. As he once put it in reply to a critic, "a social movement, in my definition, is a collective action aiming at the implementation of central cultural values against the interest and influence of an enemy which is defined in terms of power relations. A social movement is a combination of social conflict and cultural participation" (Touraine 1991: 389).
Touraine also developed a particular approach to studying these new movements, or new social actors, which he called "sociological intervention." In order to understand the importance of the new social movements, Touraine contended, it was necessary to take part in them, to identify with their activity, and his research program involved a number of "participatory" elements, such as group interviews, dialog workshops, and collective presentation of findings. Somewhat like the so-called "action research" that has been conducted with labor organizations and other activist groups in different contexts throughout the twentieth century in both Europe and North America, Touraine argued that the sociologist had to be engaged in the activities he or she was studying. Insight had to grow out of involvement, or what he called intervention (Touraine 1988).
Touraine's perspective, in both theory and methodology, has come to be developed further by Alberto Melucci, especially in his Nomads of the Present (1989) and Challenging Codes (1996). With a dual training as both a sociologist and a psychoanalyst, Melucci has tried to uncover the underlying "codes," or rituals of protest, that take place in social movements. This focus on what movements and their members actually do has led Melucci to distinguish between latent and active periods of movement activity, and he has pointed to the fact that movements change their character and, in particular, their level of public visibility over time. In the contemporary world, social movements are perhaps best seen not as organizations but as networks, which are not as firmly or coherently coordinated as social movement organizations tend to be (Castells 1996; Della Porta and Diani 1999). What is important for Melucci is the symbolic action that takes place in these networks, the meanings or concepts that are articulated, as well as the bonds of solidarity and community that are established and reproduced. By calling this code-challenging symbolic action, Melucci emphasizes that there is much more than instrumental behavior going on in social movements and, indeed, in social life more generally. The concept of cognitive praxis, and the newer notion of exemplary action, which Ron Eyerman and I have used to help understand the importance of songs in social movements, can be thought of as particular categories of symbolic action (Eyerman and Jamison 1998: 20ff).
Melucci also stresses the psychological elements of collective identity formation. People take part in a social movement, or in a code-challenging network, not merely for rational or instrumental reasons, but also for more emotional reasons, such as satisfaction and fulfillment. The struggle for cultural change, Melucci emphasizes, has an internal dimension to it that we can understand only by means of empathy or personal engagement. The understanding of social movements thus requires an identification or psychological involvement in the issues, or particular projects, of the activists on the part of the analyst. The sociologist, in Melucci's approach, has to take on some of the attributes of the psychoanalyst in order to disclose the hidden, or tacit, dimensions of collective action.
Touraine's and Melucci's ideas about social movements are the product of a particular kind of European social theorizing, in which the concepts that are developed can sometimes take on a life of their own. In that respect, they resemble Ulrich Beck's notions of risk society and "sub-politics" that he has been presenting in various forms over the past fifteen years (Beck 1999: 89ff). In Beck's account it is not social movements that are seen to be the carriers of an alternative political activity, or identity, in what he terms the risk society; it is rather a much looser, much less organized conglomeration of social life or interaction that it is important to identify and support. The term "subpolitics" implies that what is most characteristic of the environmental politics of our time is the significance of what is carried out below the surface of formal politics and policy-making. Subpolitics is political in a less visible or explicit way than social-movement activities tend to be. But it is the form of politics that seems to emerge in a relatively nonpolitical, or commercial, age. This book is an attempt to explore and understand what the new kind of politics is all about.
Here, I build on these perspectives in order to explore the processes of social, cultural, and cognitive transformation that have accompanied the efforts to bring about more "sustainable" forms of socio-economic development. The analysis is based on the assumption that participants in the quest for sustainable development are, to a large extent, shaped or influenced by the contexts in which they operate. Many of the concepts that I use were originally developed with Erik Baark. In studying processes of science and technology policy reform in China and Vietnam, Erik and I came to think of the policy realm as embodied by ideal-typical policy cultures, each of which consists of a particular constituency, a particular cluster of actors and networks (Jamison and Baark 1995). Policy-making thus becomes a process of interaction, sometimes conflictual, sometimes cooperative, among the representatives of the policy cultures. The interactions can be thought of both as negotiations among people from different societal spheres, as well as co-constructions of projects and programs, forms of mediation and hybridization that are formed in the social spaces, or virtual interfaces, among the different cultures.
In the quest for sustainable development, I have come to think of these interactions as cultural tensions. While representatives of the bureaucratic culture - the domain of the state - tend to pursue the quest for sustainable development primarily in ways that can ensure social order, the economic and civic cultures represent broader private and public interests, respectively. The representatives of the economic culture are interested in programs and policies that are directly related to their own commercial interests, while those who represent the civic culture generally seek an integration of sustainable development with broader social and cultural concerns.
These are not easy processes to pin down and analyze, and they are especially difficult to write about at a "meta" level, as I try to do here. There is bound to be some academic jargon and hyperbole, although I have done my best to keep the book readable. Here and there, I provide a personal touch to remind us that social science is not just about abstractions, but about real live human beings.
The book is organized in the following way. In chapter 1 I sketch the overall argument and present some of the main elements of my approach. The second chapter tries to provide a broader perspective, by showing how social movements have historically influenced processes of knowledge-making. Its aim is to place contemporary environmental politics within a longer-term time perspective. Chapters 3 and 4 bring the story up to date by recounting the developmental trajectories of the environmental movement itself, first in broad strokes and then in terms of more specific national experiences, primarily those I know best -from Sweden, Denmark, and my native United States. In chapters 5 and 6 I explore the contemporary "dialectics" of environmentalism by means of illustrative examples, discussing in turn the worlds of what I term green business (chapter 5) and critical ecology, or environmental activism (chapter 6). I conclude with a few reflections on my findings and observations.
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