Nature and the Social Sciences : Examples from the Electricity and Waste Sectors
Abstract: The book has two interrelated objectives. One objective is meta-theoretical and concerns the exploration of theoretical debates connected to issues of studying society and environmental problems; another objective is empirical/analytical, referring to the analysis of "green" public participation in the electricity and waste sectors in Sweden, and partly in the Netherlands as well as the UK. The metatheoretical part draws the conclusion that the ontology of critical realism, combined with a problem-subjectivist tenet, is a particularly fruitful basis for the social sciences in order to provide an understanding environmental conflicts. The empirical questions refer to preconditions and obstacles to public participations in the "greening" of the domestic practices related to electricity and waste. Methodologically, the empirical part is based on a combination of statistical data and comparative case study research, conducted through semi-structured interviews with local authorities, housing organizations, energy companies, a windpower cooperative, and households. The challenges of providers are divided into making visible, making acceptable, and making doable, based on both material and socio-political characteristics of the sectors. Households, in turn, face the challenges of constructing combinations of green identity as a foundation of their motivation: ecological, environmental, economic, and social green identities. The study shows how differences in identity-combinations across cases-although materially influenced-are rarely materially determined in any irrevocable way. Instead, policy reform may substantially strengthen the social support of action-motivating combinations of green identities.
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