Discursive frameworks

Passion Blog Pro Review

Entrepreneurship Guides

Get Instant Access

Policy style - or the interactions of the policy cultures - is perhaps the most obvious or visible way in which national cultures can be seen to influence environmental politics. Under the formal surface of policy-making, however, there are a range of somewhat more elusive factors which have to do with national "mentalities," or ways of life. They are often difficult to identify in any rigorous fashion, but there can be little doubt that people in different countries are affected by different "mindsets" or discursive frameworks.

In an earlier comparison of national components of Swedish and Danish science and technology, I suggested that because of different geographical conditions, as well as different vocabularies or representations that have developed over time, "nature" has come to be given somewhat different meanings in Denmark and Sweden. By roaming freely in the historical and ethnographic literature, I tried to identify a national metaphysical bias, or cosmology, a particular way in which the exploration and investigation of nature and natural resources had been conceptualized in each country.

In Sweden, with its vast expanses of forests and mountains, nature was, from early on, a rather forbidding place, both in theory and practice, harsh and threatening and somewhat mysterious, and the task for science and engineering was to bring it under human mastery. Not for nothing has Carl von Linne, or Linnaeus, as he is known outside Sweden, been called the initiator of an imperialist attitude to nature and the instigator of a managerial approach to ecology. Linnaeus, as we have seen, conceived natural relationships in a mechanical, systemic way, believing, as Donald Worster has put it, that the "Creator had designed an integrated order in nature which functioned like a single, universal, well-oiled machine" (Worster 1977: 39).

What is intriguing, however, is that many other Swedish scientists and engineers have shared this imperial, or mechanical, attitude to nature that is so characteristic of Linnaean taxonomy. Throughout Swedish history we find systematizers, catalogers, system-builders, modelers, not only among scientists and engineers but also among philosophers and theologians, for example Emanuel Swedenborg in the eighteenth century and the extremely influential Christopher Bostrom in the nineteenth century, who developed a kind of systematic philosophy for the civil service. Swedish history, in other words, has given rise, and a certain dominant cultural position, to a systemic mentality. In the words of Sten Lindroth, the Swedish historian of science: "The average Swede undoubtedly has an appreciable aptitude for organization and order, and this desire for description and classification has found purposeful expression in the natural scientists" (Lindroth 1952: 31).

While the systemic, or imperialist, attitude to nature has been the dominant one throughout Swedish history, there has also been a minority position, an alternative attitude to nature, that can be found in Sweden as well as in the other Nordic countries of Iceland, Denmark, Finland, and Norway, and extending on into Russia and Alaska. Reaching back to the pagan, pre-Christian past, a kind of animism, or naturalist belief system, has been kept alive among poets and artists through the centuries, as well as in some of the customs and rituals of the popular culture. It has often stood for an emotional identification with non-human nature, leading to a primitivism or spiritualism in which nature is not so much exploited or even understood so much as listened to and lived with in a state of mutual respect and non-verbal communication (Haila 1999).

In the twentieth century we can see the tradition being mobilized in the films of Ingmar Bergman and the nature poetry of Harry Martinson, as well as in the "deep ecology" of Arne N^ss and Georg Henrik von Wright's philosophical critique of modernism. And we can also hear it in the recent wave of electrified folk music that has attracted a good deal of international attention. It has provided environmentalism with a radical, often extremist, component that continues to characterize at least some activism in Finland, as well as in Sweden. In both countries there has been a remarkable rise in "animal liberation" protests, particularly among young people, that is much more prominent than in most other European countries (see Konttinen et al., 1999).

The systemic, ordering, bias, or mentality, was perhaps encouraged by the geography, but already in the seventeenth century the copper and iron mines of northern Sweden gave early impetus to the consolidation of particular national scientific-technical interests in mechanics, chemistry, and metallurgy. And it was the further development and "technification" of those interests that would play a major role in the country's industrialization process. In Sweden a number of large engineering firms emerged in the 1870s, and industrialization was largely based on the handful of companies that grew up at that time - Ericsson, ASEA, Alfa-Laval, Nobel, Bofors - all big, export-oriented firms that drew on the Swedish mechanical and chemical heritage, and which derived their strength from a basic engineering competence. These by-now transnational corporations in the twentieth century came to include the automotive manufacturers, SAAB and Volvo, and they have exercised both a doctrinal and functional hegemony over Swedish research and development that is central to the "national system of innovation" (Edquist and Lundvall 1993).

The general public has historically been poorly represented in this Swedish national political culture. In the nineteenth century, as elsewhere in Europe, popular movements emerged among the farmers and members ofthe industrial working class, but in Sweden these movements rather quickly became institutionalized in the form of political parties: the Center party represented the farmers and the social democratic party represented the industrial workers. It has been primarily through the formalized parliamentary system that Swedish democracy has offered opportunities for public participation in policy-making. The Swedish legal framework has ensured public access to nature, and, for that matter, to the state bureaucracy, both as a way of guaranteeing public acceptance and support and as a means of legitimizing a strong state role in economic affairs. The ombudsman, serving to mediate between the state and the public, is a uniquely Swedish institution, as is the tradition of allemansratt, the officially sanctioned free access to nature that dates back to the early modern era. The notion of the "people's home" that was adopted as a kind of slogan by the social democratic prime minister Per Albin Hansson in the

1930s similarly rests on a long-continued pattern of self-conscious paternalism in the state's dealings with the citizenry (Elzinga et al. 1998). The state bureaucracy in Sweden has sought to serve as the public's protector, first against the landed aristocracy and in the twentieth century against the modern version of the aristocracy, the large corporate industrial firms.

The cultural legacy is quite different in Denmark. To begin with we find that the image of the workshop is a recurrent theme in the national attitude to nature. The natural environment was to be worked with pragmatically, not through theory or systemic distancing, but by a kind of organic interaction, or experimentation. Already in the Middle Ages there was a noticeably practical bent among Danish philosophers and with it an identification with an organic, experimental relation to nature (Jamison 1982: 197ff). A good example is Tycho Brahe who, almost alone among the great men in the history of science, gained his reputation for practical work, for instrument-building and precise observations, rather than for theorizing. Again, in the nineteenth century the fame of Hans Christian 0rsted rested on a practical discovery (of electromagnetism) rather than on a theory. 0rsted was an impassioned believer in the practical value of understanding nature's secrets; almost uniquely in the Europe of his time he combined a romantic nature philosophy with a technically oriented utilitarianism. He wrote about the spirit in nature and gave lectures to industrialists about the importance of science.

Other particularly influential components of the Danish national identity are the People's High Schools that were developed in the nineteenth century and then spread to the other Scandinavian countries, as well as to the United States at the Highlander School in Tennessee, which has played significant roles in both the Civil Rights Movement and the new social movements of feminism and environmentalism (see Eyerman and Jamison 1998). The schools not only came to represent a unique expression of the national character of the Danish people but also helped to mobilize the rural population to take part in the industrialization process. So, too, the system of technical consultancy that was so important in the development of the dairy and food-processing industries can be said to be derived from a rural populism that was articulated by Grundtvig and others in the nineteenth century (Edquist and Lundvall 1993).

It is also worth noting that Denmark was one of the few countries in Europe to accomplish a peaceful transition to the parliamentary system. The mobilization of farmers by the Liberal Party (Venstre) in the late nineteenth century created a viable opposition to the political dominance of the landowners' Right Party (H0ire), which increasingly came to represent the new class of industrialists based in Copenhagen. The strength of the liberals and, during the early part of the twentieth century, of the

Social Democrats led to a distinct tradition of the delegation of administrative tasks to regional or local government. Combined with the cooperative movement that relied on local entrepreneurship and educational institutions such as the People's High Schools, which aimed to provide both training in practical skills for young people in the countryside and to offer opportunities to participate in political decision-making, the Danish style of decentralized administration has helped to shape a "populist" political tradition that has been extremely important in recent decades, perhaps especially in regard to environmental issues.

It may be useful to say something about the American discursive framework and attitudes to nature. The nation developed by taming its vast natural expanses, conquering a rough nature through ingenuity, technology, and hard work. But the experience of conquest and domination gave rise to two rather different conceptions of nature, one which might be called "romantic" and the other which might be called "utilitarian." Where the first tended to respect nature, at times even to glorify the beauty and tran-quility of certain natural areas, the other saw nature as a kind of enemy for human development, a foe to be outwitted and exploited for economic benefit (Worster 1993).

Both images helped to give nature a place in the national identity, and protection of nature an importance in the industrialization process. But they provided those who would protect nature with rather different kinds of argument to justify their activities (see Fox 1985). The romantic, or pastoral, image led to ideas of tending and cultivating the natural environment, and eventually to living in "harmony with nature" and preserving parts of nature from further human encroachment. The pragmatic, or frontier, image on the other hand came to justify exploitation, even domination, of nature, setting the rugged individualist, first the woodsman and then the inventor and entrepreneur, the task of taming a wild, belligerent natural landscape.

In time utilitarian exploitation turned into efficient management, but the underlying image remained largely the same, as the ending of the first phase of exploitation of the frontier led to the identification of what Vannevar Bush, in 1945, called the "endless frontier" of science and technology (Jamison and Eyerman 1994). The images have coexisted uneasily throughout American history, sometimes contending with each other for the allegiance of scientists and other intellectuals, at others combining in new constructive syntheses. In the battle between the images we can see the roots of the conflict between culture and civilization and, even more perhaps, a tension between a puritan "work ethic" and community spirit and sense of limits, on the one hand, and a militaristic ethos of growth and expansion on the other.

At the turn of the century, in the so-called progressive era when Theodore Roosevelt was president, conservation became institutionalized in federal agencies for national parks, fisheries, wilderness, etc. and conservation itself came to be justified on pragmatic grounds. Preserving natural resources became a part of the progressive era's "gospel of efficiency" but, by the 1920s, short-term gain and exploitation had once again come to characterize the dominant American attitude to nature (Hays 1959).

The 1930s were a period of active reform and marked something of a return to the earlier progressive principles. Among the activities of the so-called New Deal era some of the most lasting were the efforts made to preserve nature. The area set aside for national parks was substantially increased, and access to the parks was considerably improved. There was also a growth of membership in hunting and fishing organizations, and for many members of the National Wildlife Federation - which is still today the largest environmental organization in America - there emerged a concern with rational "game management" (Gottlieb 1993).

It should not be surprising that the science of ecology found fertile soil for its cognitive growth in the United States. In the 1930s, ecological approaches came to be quite popular among both biologists and other natural scientists, but also, as we have seen, among social scientists. The notions of regionalism, an important part of rural reconstruction schemes, and urbanization, a central aspect of social planning doctrines, as well as the managerial conservationism that was fostered by governmental programs, were all based on ecological ideas.

It was a different ecology from the one that emerged in the 1960s, however. In the 1930s nature was still something "out there," separate from society, and, as such, it was primarily to be managed and con-troled. The huge hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River that Woody Guthrie was asked to write songs about served as the symbol for a progressive use of nature's bounty, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, with its community control of resources, became a model of ecological engineering. Natural beauty could inspire the poet or the artist but in the 1930s, had little political impact. In keeping with the pragmatic orientation of American history nature was something to be used by man for his pleasure, benefit, and wealth. It was only when that ambition proved to have such disastrous consequences and implications - first with the atomic bomb and then with the suburbanization of postwar America - that a new way of thinking, a new environmental consciousness, emerged.

That consciousness, as it spread around the world, interacted with other discursive frameworks and broader mentalities. In a country like India, as we have seen, the influence from indigenous religious and philosophical traditions has been especially important. Vandana Shiva, for example, has continually emphasized in her writings how "feminine principles" are central to Indian attitudes to nature. In her words, "Contemporary Western views of nature are fraught with the dichotomy or duality between man and woman, and person and nature... In Indian cosmology, by contrast, person and nature are a duality in unity" (Shiva 1988: 40). For Shiva, a compassionate or caring attitude to nature is part of an Indian identity, which is perhaps one of the resaons why Indian environmentalists have played such a central role in international environmental politics.

Following on from the ideas promoted by Gandhi and Tagore in the interwar years, Indian environmentalists have come to articulate an alternative belief system to dominant Western attitudes that has proved attractive and relevant for many non-Indians. Throughout Indian environmental politics the Gandhian emphasis on non-violence and on moral protest - as well as the interest in craftsmanship and traditional skills and knowledges, epitomized by Gandhi's own personal simplicity in his mannerisms and way of life - have been particularly influential (Elzinga and Jamison 1986). Gandhi's practice has served as a frame of reference for almost all Indian environmentalists and, in its international influence, indicates how particular national discursive frameworks need not degenerate into "nationalisms."

However, in the 1990s the influence of Gandhi's non-violent and secular "discourse" over Indian society has weakened considerably (Akula 1995). As religious fundamentalism has flourished, and a neo-liberal economic policy has been promulgated at the national level, the Gandhian discursive framework has been challenged by both explicitly ethnic traditionalisms as well as by a global cosmopolitanism. Where the one has pulled environmentalism into a locally based populism, the other has countered the environmental message with a new kind of economic development discourse. For both the populists and the cosmopolitans, the Gandhian discourse, and such movements as the Chipko tree-huggers, who won such international renown in the the 1980s, are seen as less relevant and less exemplary at the present time (Rangan 1996; Gooch 1998).

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Key Principles For Entrepreneurs

Key Principles For Entrepreneurs

If you're wanting to learn how to set goals now for tomorrow's benefit. Then this may be the most important letter you'll ever read! You're About To Learn All About Growth Potential Without Potential Waste And How To Manage Your Money Principles, No Matter How Much Time You Have Had To Prepare! It doesn't matter if you've never experienced entrepreneurship up close and personal, This guide will tell you everything you need to know, without spending too much brainpower!

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment