Precaution, Foresight and Sustainability: Reflection and Reflexivity in the Governance of Science and Technology. Stirling, A. In Reflexive Governance for Sustainable Development, pages 225–273. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2006.
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[Excerpt] The introductory chapter to this volume demonstrates how the advent of the 'sustainability agenda' holds crucial significance for the prospects of more reflexive governance. (Voß and Kemp, this volume). Nowhere is this truer than in the governance of science and technology. Discourses on sustainability are dominated by understandings and possibilities mediated by science. They are pervaded by the aims and potentialities associated with different forms of technology. It is also the experience of the unfolding implications of twentieth-century science and technology that forms the principal reference point in Giddens's (1990) and Beck's (1992) seminal applications of the concept of reflexivity to modernity and which continue to feature prominently in the subsequent literature on this theme. (Giddens, 1994; Beck et al., 1994; Lash et al., 1996; Adam et al., 2000). However, social scientific discourses on reflexivity are also notorious for the questions that they beg, as well for those that they raise, illuminate or resolve. It is against this background that the present chapter will seek to examine some of the key issues that arise when considering the prospects for establishing more deliberately reflexive governance for sustainable science and technology. As also hinted at in the Introduction to this book (Voß and Kemp, this volume), one key question that emerges right at the outset concerns the extent to which sustainability and reflexivity can necessarily always be assumed to hold convergent, or even consistent, governance implications. Wynne has observed, for instance, that questions might be raised about the degree of reflexivity embodied in increasing preoccupations with policy agendas framed in terms of 'environment' and 'risk' (Wynne, 2002). Given that these are key constitutive themes of sustainability, similar concerns might be raised on this somewhat broader canvas. Certainly, where such thematic labels encourage the 'objectification' and compartmentalization of different governance domains, or where they are appropriated instrumentally to legitimate particular favoured interventions, then they may actually militate against reflexivity in wider governance processes. I return to this theme in the next section. For the moment, it suffices to note that this kind of compartmentalization (Weale, 2000) and instrumental legitimation (Stirling, 2004) are all too often a feature of the relationship between sustainability and wider areas of governance. It is with this type of question about the precise nature of the relationship between reflexivity and sustainability in governance discourses, with which this chapter might most usefully begin. A key initial point in this regard concerns the proliferating understandings of exactly what is meant by the term 'reflexivity' in various contexts bearing on this theme (Gouldner, 1970; Giddens, 1976; Steier, 1991; Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992; Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2000; Woolgar, 1988). In particular, questions arise about distinctions between normative and descriptive usages, and about the role of intentionality (Lash, 2001). For purposes of clarity in the present account, it may therefore be useful to begin with a clear working distinction between three key concepts on which this analysis will rest: 'unreflectiveness', 'reflection' and 'reflexivity'. This is not intended as an effort at general synthesis, but simply as a consistent and transparent point of departure for the present discussion. Accordingly, each term will be addressed in relation to modes of representation, understanding and intervention in the governance of science and technology. [...]
@incollection{stirlingPrecautionForesightSustainability2006,
  title = {Precaution, Foresight and Sustainability: Reflection and Reflexivity in the Governance of Science and Technology},
  booktitle = {Reflexive {{Governance}} for {{Sustainable Development}}},
  author = {Stirling, Andy},
  year = {2006},
  pages = {225--273},
  publisher = {{Edward Elgar Publishing}},
  doi = {10.4337/9781847200266.00020},
  abstract = {[Excerpt] The introductory chapter to this volume demonstrates how the advent of the 'sustainability agenda' holds crucial significance for the prospects of more reflexive governance. (Vo\ss{} and Kemp, this volume). Nowhere is this truer than in the governance of science and technology. Discourses on sustainability are dominated by understandings and possibilities mediated by science. They are pervaded by the aims and potentialities associated with different forms of technology. It is also the experience of the unfolding implications of twentieth-century science and technology that forms the principal reference point in Giddens's (1990) and Beck's (1992) seminal applications of the concept of reflexivity to modernity and which continue to feature prominently in the subsequent literature on this theme. (Giddens, 1994; Beck et al., 1994; Lash et al., 1996; Adam et al., 2000). However, social scientific discourses on reflexivity are also notorious for the questions that they beg, as well for those that they raise, illuminate or resolve. It is against this background that the present chapter will seek to examine some of the key issues that arise when considering the prospects for establishing more deliberately reflexive governance for sustainable science and technology. As also hinted at in the Introduction to this book (Vo\ss{} and Kemp, this volume), one key question that emerges right at the outset concerns the extent to which sustainability and reflexivity can necessarily always be assumed to hold convergent, or even consistent, governance implications. Wynne has observed, for instance, that questions might be raised about the degree of reflexivity embodied in increasing preoccupations with policy agendas framed in terms of 'environment' and 'risk' (Wynne, 2002). Given that these are key constitutive themes of sustainability, similar concerns might be raised on this somewhat broader canvas. Certainly, where such thematic labels encourage the 'objectification' and compartmentalization of different governance domains, or where they are appropriated instrumentally to legitimate particular favoured interventions, then they may actually militate against reflexivity in wider governance processes. I return to this theme in the next section. For the moment, it suffices to note that this kind of compartmentalization (Weale, 2000) and instrumental legitimation (Stirling, 2004) are all too often a feature of the relationship between sustainability and wider areas of governance. It is with this type of question about the precise nature of the relationship between reflexivity and sustainability in governance discourses, with which this chapter might most usefully begin. A key initial point in this regard concerns the proliferating understandings of exactly what is meant by the term 'reflexivity' in various contexts bearing on this theme (Gouldner, 1970; Giddens, 1976; Steier, 1991; Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992; Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2000; Woolgar, 1988). In particular, questions arise about distinctions between normative and descriptive usages, and about the role of intentionality (Lash, 2001). For purposes of clarity in the present account, it may therefore be useful to begin with a clear working distinction between three key concepts on which this analysis will rest: 'unreflectiveness', 'reflection' and 'reflexivity'. This is not intended as an effort at general synthesis, but simply as a consistent and transparent point of departure for the present discussion. Accordingly, each term will be addressed in relation to modes of representation, understanding and intervention in the governance of science and technology. [...]},
  isbn = {978-1-84720-026-6},
  keywords = {*imported-from-citeulike-INRMM,~INRMM-MiD:c-13411606,deep-uncertainty,incomplete-knowledge,policy-strategies-for-scientific-uncertainty,precaution,science-based-decision-making,science-policy-interface,sustainability,transdisciplinary-research,uncertainty},
  lccn = {INRMM-MiD:c-13411606}
}
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