Le fonti rinnovabili di energia

In document Biomasse per l’energia: aspetti ecologici, energetici ed economici (Page 40-43)

2 I cambiamenti climatici e la questione energetica

2.3 Politiche di mitigazione dei cambiamenti climatici globali

2.3.1 Le fonti rinnovabili di energia

Discourse is often loosely connected to ‘conversation’, ‘debate’ or ‘societal discussion’ but its Latin root discu’rsus originally stands for something that is

‘running to and from’.72 Other ways to conceive of discourse is to view it as the

‘fibres’ permeating our perceived reality or as a ‘dictionary’: the language available to us in a certain context.73 The concept is applied in many academic contexts and two prominent examples are that by Foucault (1971, 1982), where discourse is a rule-governed structure rooted in power relations organising social practices, and another that by Habermas (1984, 1987), who uses the concept in connection to a theory of argumentation in his writings on ‘communicative action’. Here I will mainly follow the work of Foucault, viewing discourse as a social practice including language as well as actions and materiality, which produces meaning and order. Below, I will first describe some main features of the discourse concept that I will here adhere to and then I will exemplify why it may be suitable for research on urban sustainable development.

71 Malmö is governed by a left wing majority in cooperation with the Greens. The City Council Election in 2006 gave the Social Democrats 38%, the Conservative Party 25%, and the Green Party around 6% of the votes (cf. p. 24).

72 This translation was chosen by a search on the Internet. In the Swedish Encyclopaedia (1991) discu’rsus is translated to ‘kringlöpande’ in Swedish.

73 The fibre metaphor was chosen with inspiration from a seminar with PhD candidate Carl-Johan Sanglert who used it in the context of the landscape protection discourse with reference to M.

Winther Jörgensen and L. Phillips.

Structures constituting our reality

What characterises a discourse, and what makes it so powerful? A discourse is a kind of structure – or we may call it praxis or matrix – governed by powerful autonomous practices of which we are all included and which constitutes a

‘significant impacting social system’ (Höög 03/04/08).74 Discourses shape our thoughts and influence our perceptions, and thus set the limits to reality as we know it. Our lives are by no little degree channelled through the frame of different discourses including for example politics, economics, law, health, and gender. In the most radical interpretation of discourse the agent/subject is ruled out as structure and context supersedes any intentional source. A more modest

interpretation of discourse is to acknowledge that there are several and different discourses, and the hegemony of one may be replaced by another, and there is a constant struggle over dominance. The agent in that perspective is not only shaped by the discourses but may play an active part in forming and transforming them. This is the position that I will take in my studies on the contemporary development of Malmö.

Power, knowledge and science

Intimately interwoven with the discourse concept is the recognition of power.

According to Foucault power is relational and always present in all kinds of human relations. During history there have been different dominant power structures, but with Enlightenment and modernity these structures have become increasingly complex. What Foucault sees is no longer a specific source of power, but a modern system of disciplinary power permeating the whole society and the mind and body of all of us. This ‘bio power’ does not imply brutal domination and oppression, but a controlling system based on supervision, education, examination, and ‘normalization’. As individuals we are not coerced but rather educated, raised and cared for by this system. Interacting with the individual’s self forming processes, most of us are unconsciously – and even happily – normalized, the result of which is modernity itself. At the basis of the modern power structures are some fundamental techniques of control:

- Exclusion, such as the formal or informal rejection or prohibition of certain ways of talking, behaving, etc.

- Division and dividing, for example the division between statements based on ‘science’ and ‘lay man’ statements.

- Truth coercion, differentiation of what counts as true and false and of whom may be listened to, and not listened to, as telling the truth.

Further, knowledge and power are not independent but they are articulating each other: ‘in knowing we control and in controlling we know’ (SEP 2008).75

74 The section on discourse was written with inspiration from a lecture in Philosophy of Science (VEKSAM) with Victoria Höög at Lund University in 2008.

Instead of seeing the Enlightenment as the liberation of man from authorities and power structures, Foucault sees new and refined forms of control and suppression taking over. The modern rationality is at the very heart of this process, and science is the

75 Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, article on Michel Foucault, quotation with reference to Foucault’s work Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

prime example of the fusion of power and knowledge. With its main tendencies of examination, classification and organization, science exercises the modern

techniques of control itself. Presenting itself as a neutral promoter of universal truths, the fact is disguised that science actually is a result of contingent historical forces and expressions of specific ethical and political judgements.

As power is inherent in all human relations there is no way to totally get rid of power structures. But it is possible to become aware of them and one way of doing that is by discourse analysis, the specific methodology derived from discourse theory. I will not go into details of Foucault’s archaeological and genealogical methods or the developments of discourse analysis connected to the field of sustainable development (cf. Hajer 1995; Dryzek 1997). Suffice it to say is that they aim to uncover the invisible structures of a discourse in a specific historical context, such as to lay bare the ruling metaphors and the formal and informal rules guiding norms, values and behaviour and to uncover the unspoken rules governing legitimacy, authority and trustworthiness. This approach implies a general view of history that is contextual in the sense that what dictates one discourse may vary radically from one historical context to another – as exemplified in Foucault’s famous work on the history of madness (1961).

Discourse and sustainable development

Sustainable development is today a buzzword used by a horde of actors:

politicians, economists, business people, NGO representatives and the man on the street. With the rise of the climate issue it has attained increased attention, and the struggle over the interpretative prerogative has sharpened. Different groups claim different ‘truths’ concerning for example what sustainable development really means, what the vision of a sustainable society is and what changes are needed to counteract the unsustainable trends of modern society. The discourse on

sustainability is now on the desks of the highest politicians as well as on every person’s kitchen table. To understand the concept of sustainable development, and why it has gained increasing power, discourse theory seems a promising

approach. In my view, discourse theory may be especially rewarding in highlighting the following critical aspects of sustainability research:

Increased self awareness and critical self reflection

Discourse theory as outlined by Foucault is a permanent reminder of the need to be self aware and self-critical. As each and everyone is part of powerful

discursive structures, we should pay close attention to our own line of thinking and acting. What do we as researchers encounter as reasonable, reliable, and relevant information – and what do we exclude? Especially that which is sorted out, the deviating, the abnormal, should be carefully reinvestigated. We should also be constantly aware of the roles of researchers as part of the power

containing structure of modern science.

Attitude to ‘truth’

Essential to discourse theory is a relative rather than an absolute definition of truth. What is considered the truth – and opposite, the false – is shaped by contingent historical forces and moulded through complex structures of power relations. Discourses produce ‘truth effects’ not truths. As researchers on

sustainable development we may use this insight to be able to see the very many

‘truths’ that exist in parallel and that aggravates constructive communication and problem solving between stakeholders.

Attention to structures and power

Applying discourse theory necessarily involves a critical attitude to existing social institutions. Power structures are not surprisingly at the very heart of

sustainability issues. Without resorting to the position of a totally disarmed subject, saying structures rule everything – one can develop an awareness of the powerful discourses surrounding us and their socio-ecological effects. We must be able to critically examine what is perceived as ‘normal’ and self-evident, and to scrutinize the origin and motives of the disparate voices in the sustainability debate.

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