The risk conflicts perspective : mediating environmental change we can believe in
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
New York, N.Y.
Bulletin of science, technology and society. - New York, N.Y.
, p. 44-53
University of Antwerp
Starting from a perspective of democratic politics, this essay argues that the problem lies not in any unjustified politicization of risk controversies; quite to the contrary, it lies in their depoliticization or their capture in a postpolitical consensus. To this end, the prevailing storylines in public discourse on risk controversies are shown to be based on invalid assumptions regarding nature and science and on exclusionary mechanisms. In response, the risk conflicts perspective is put forward as an analytical framework, which allows us to evaluate mediated public discourse on the extent to which democratic debate and citizenship are facilitated. For the fields of science and environment communication, this entails a shift in emphasis from a focus on the epistemic level to the level of the political. We conclude by discussing the potential transformative impacts of this perspective for academic research, public discourse, as well as the directly involved social actors, in relation to the controversies in question.