From tensions to regimes

In ideal-typical terms three cognitive regimes have manifested themselves in the most recent phase of environmental politics as the emerging ecological culture wages its two-pronged battle against incorporation and reaction. These regimes are grounded in different types of human agency, each with its own characteristic form of social action and particular constituencies and actor-networks. In cognitive terms, we may distinguish not only the various kinds of knowledge-production that are favored by each of the regimes but also the different "tacit," or embodied, forms of knowledge that are mobilized. The division into regimes follows the cultural theory that I have used throughout this volume, in which environmental politics are characterized in relation to conflicting "cultural formations" (see Table 3).

Each regime has its own distinctive approach to both sustainable development, and to scientific and technological development, and, further, to

Table 3 Cognitive regimes of sustainable development




Type of agency Forms of social action Type of knowledge Tacit forms local/national traditionalist resistance factual/lay place/roots transnational commercial brokerage scientific/managerial discipline/skills synthetic exemplary mobilization contextual/situated experiences knowledge-making in general. Each has its own preferred types of institutional, or organizational, "learning," and each has different reasons for pursuing its agenda. In relation to public engagement each regime implies quite different conceptions of agency and social action. At work in each of the three main strategies there is a different processual logic, based on what might be termed different normative or motivational systems. Each may be seen to be mobilizing, or utilizing, different types of formalized, or explicit, as well as informal or "tacit," forms of knowledge. Each tends to be based on a separate sphere of society, and, indeed, one of the main problems is that different strategies tend to compete for resources and influence.

On the one hand, there are the locally based initiatives, where forms of action are often a kind of protest, either directly against a new project "from above" or indirectly, as a defense of a traditional form of existence, way of life, or national prerogative. The pursuit of environmental sustain-ability provides a catalyst in many of these cases for mobilization and revi-talization of traditional knowledge and national identities. As with many earlier forms of populism, however, these local initiatives have a difficult time achieving legitimacy and credibility, due both to their popular modes of knowledge-making and their often too-personal forms of decisionmaking.

On the other hand, with many of the various projects of so-called "ecological modernization," participation is primarily conceived as top-down, with members of the public presented with the role of environmentally conscious consumer, or offered opportunities for ecological employment. Here, legitimacy is achieved at the cost of incorporation and subservience to commercial agendas and strategies. Knowledge-making is dominated by a managerial mindset, and the tacit dimension that is mobilized is the skills and organizational routines that are embedded in established institutions.

In these ways the emerging ecological culture represents a kind of synthesis, or transcendence, of the dominant and the residual, or what we can think of as established and populist regimes. The form of action is flexible and often presents experiments or examples of "what can be done." Knowledge is mobilized which is both transdisciplinary in a formal sense that draws on many disciplines and traditions, as well as contingent, in a tacit sense that depends on context and the recombining of knowledge. The form of agency is both direct and representative, or, rather, we may see it as an evolving "hybrid" combination of the local and the global, what has been termed local cosmopolitanism or global ecological citizenship (Beck 1999).

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