9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Science, Environment and the Public Building I, Auditório J.J. Laginha

Participation in environmental decision making processes between instrumental and substantial rationality

Open information flow and participation of citizens in environmental decision making are widely spread and common practice since Aarhus convention was adopted in many national and international (EU) legislation systems. It looks like that formal system arrangements are supporting the argumentative substantial rationality which leads to optimalisation of environmental democracy. However, it is not difficult to notice, that such ideal conditions are quite often virtual wishful thinking. Instrumental PR communicative techniques are in fact supporting reduced strategic goal oriented rationality. Actors, most commonly called stakeholders, who adopt use such communicative techniques are presenting it as democratic, open, and transparent, conflicts are avoided, emerging questions are processed in partnership mood, different institutional arrangements are invented in order to alleviate tensions as a consequence of heterogeneous opinions, attitudes, prejudices, etc. In fact analysis of instrumental communication in risky technology siting process exposes numerous communication techniques which in fact somehow inhibit substantial argumentative rationality. In such sophisticated communication processes the fundamental goals are not questioned at all, substantional debate is avoided, instead, and negligible questions are gaining priorities. This is not only the strategy of main protagonists but even less influential actors are avoiding substantial discussion. They as well are adopting reduced instrumental goal oriented pragmatic rationality. As a consequence participation in decision making is producing conflicts and obstruction of interactive communication. Paper is based on case studies and comparative analysis of citizens participation and decision making process in siting radwaste material in different EU countries.