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Vetenskapen och miljöproblemen. En expertsociologisk studie

Doktorsavhandling
Författare Göran Sundqvist
Datum för examination 1991-06-07
Opponent at public defense Margareta Bertilsson
ISBN 91-628-0333-6
Förlag Göteborg University
Förlagsort Göteborg
Publiceringsår 1991
Publicerad vid Sociologiska institutionen. Avdelningen för teknik- och vetenskapsstudier
Språk sv
Ämnesord Sociology of Knowledge, Sociology of Science, Scientific expertise, scientific controversies, environmental problems, Émile Durkheim, ritual action, grid/group analysis, risk perception
Ämneskategorier Samhällsvetenskap

Sammanfattning

The point of departure for this study is the understanding that environmental problems are defined by people within specific social contexts. As environ¬mental problems are of their nature research dependent, the scientific expertise exerts a great influence over how environmental problems are defined and envi¬ronmental protection is managed. The purpose of the study is to analyze the role of expertise and explain how controversies arise amongst scientific experts. The expert role is defined as a borderland between science and politics, where the expert has the task of formulating possible measures and lending political advice on the basis of their research results. Traditionally controversies in scientific questions have been explained in terms of misunderstanding or self interest, seen as anomalies which can be cor¬rected with information and by limiting the influence of the individual scientist. Research results themselves are not regarded as causes of controversy, rather it is their application wich causes controversy. This study departs from the opposite position, the sociology of knowledge developed by Émile Durkheim during the beginning of the century, where all knowledge, even scientific, is regarded as socially based. Departing from this position, experts’ actions can be analyzed as adaptions to, and the maintenance of, their social positions’. Mary Douglas has further developed the durkheimian approach with a grid/group analysis, departing from a pluralistic rationality, both in regards to knowledge and action. In line with this position, one cannot establish an absolute definition of the relationship between science and politics. Therefore it is more suitable to see the boundary between science and politics as a flexible one where the scientific expertise are engaged in boundary work, i.e. they formulate and change the boundaries. An analysis of 45 interviews with highly qualified key Swedish environmental experts revealed how they differed as to the expert strategy they embraced. They strive to either increase or decrease research dependency, seeing envi¬ronmental problems as either scientific or political problems. A climate of con¬troversy between two expert strategies where the one seeks to solve environ¬mental problems scientifically and the other seeks to politicize them. The stra¬tegies can be seen as rituals having the latent function of confirming specific so¬cial positions.

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