Our common, contested future: the rhetorics of modern environment in Sweden
Hinde, Dominic Matthew
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This thesis explores the creation and resolution of environmental conflicts in modern Sweden from a narrative ethics perspective. By problematising the concept of Swedish exceptionalism in environmental questions, it allows for a multi-disciplinary reappraisal of Sweden’s international reputation as a nominally ‘green’ nation. This emphasises the dissonance between perceptions of a self-identifying green nation and idea of a sustainable modern green state which is structured in a sustainable way. In so doing, the thesis asserts the pluralistic approach to the ethics and moral identities of modernity pioneered by the Scottish political and moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre as a means of understanding the diverse and often contradictory nature of Sweden’s environmental performance. The main source material for this investigation is a corpus of circa 1000 texts in four major newspapers, taken from debates surrounding three environmental conflicts between 1970 and 2010. These conflicts are the 1970 campaign to save the Vindel River from development, the 1980 referendum on nuclear energy in Sweden and the role played by the proposed Stockholm Bypass road project in the 2010 municipal and national elections. Chosen to cover variation in location, size and time period, they yield a substantial sample in relation to the discussion and resolution of environmental conflict. These texts are listed in full in Appendix II. Utilising the theory of textual selves presented in the analytical discourse methodology of Norman Fairclough and the reflexive nature of self-identity within modern narrative, these entries are then coded. This coding uses the concept of a textual ethos developed within Fairclough’s Text Oriented Discourse Analysis (TODA) methodology. From this large corpus, thirteen specific examples reflecting these quantitative labels are more closely analysed using TODA. This pays attention to both their composition and to the wider context of the debates from which they are taken. In the detailed analyses that follow, the conflicts and their characteristics are viewed through the concept of modern non-rational doxa. This entails argumentation being based on temporally specific contexts and narratives over epistemologically coherent rationalism. Parallels are drawn between larger societal meta-narratives and values and the argumentation for specific choices about the future made by individual authors, and it is argued that the continued fragmentation of Swedish politics has implications for understanding the concept of norms and the hegemony of ideologies or ethical standpoints. Discussing the impact of such a situation on Sweden’s future development and the potential for export of Swedish environmental practice, this study ultimately posits that any attempt to replicate Swedish environmental practice must come to terms with the narrative context in which action is to take place. Finally, it speculates on the challenges of writing and arguing for truly sustainable eco-modernities.