The imagined environmental citizen exploring the state - individual relationship in Swedish environmental policy

Detta är en avhandling från Luleå tekniska universitet

Sammanfattning: As environmental problems today are understood as being problems of collective action, they also depend on the broad engagement of individual citizens for their successful solution. Institutions directed towards resolving the environmental situation need, accordingly, to be perceived by the citizenry as promoting acceptable goals, for acceptable reasons and by the use of acceptable means. In short, institutions aiming at instigating and sustaining collective action need first to be perceived by the collective itself as being legitimate. Emanating from the notion of public acceptance as essential for long-term effective policies, this thesis takes a first step towards an evaluation of the degree of legitimacy for Swedish environmental policy. In this endeavour, its primary purpose is to elucidate and study the foundations for policy legitimacy, that is, the normative principles embedded in political sustainability aspirations and expressed through the official Swedish environmental policy discourse. The main aim of this thesis is, accordingly; To explore, map and analyse the values, beliefs and principles underpinning Swedish environmental policy aiming at involving household members in the work towards an environmental sustainable society, as reflected through official policy documents and policy instruments in-use on both national and municipal levels of government. By the use of a value-oriented qualitative text analysis of both national and municipal policy documents, the normative foundations of Swedish environmental policy are outlined. Through this approach, important insights are reached in terms of how people, according to policy-makers, are expected to reason in environmental matters; what motivations are used to guide behaviour in this field; and what kinds of policy instruments and motivational statements are deemed the most effective for making people comply with new environmental norms of behaviour. Additionally, by applying three different conceptions of citizenship as the analytical framework by which the environmental norm is analysed, the thesis also examines to what extent the Swedish image of the ‘environmental citizen'; on the rights - obligations balance; on her motivations, values and participation in the environmental work, either express an image of a new ecological citizenship or keeps firmly within the traditional framework of the state - individual relationship. The thesis concludes first, that the normative foundations of Swedish environmental policy, on the national as well as the local level of government, draw strongly on collectivist values. All Swedish citizens are bound by a contract based in the membership of the Swedish community and shall therefore dutifully contribute to the common good by actively doing their bit in building the Green People's Home. The state - individual relationship is therefore interpreted as being contractual, territorially bound and based on the expectance of reciprocity. The responsibilities for political authority is, consequently, framed as to actively enlighten the citizens on what is considered the good life, and to steer the citizenry towards making (objectively defined) responsible or informed choices in everyday life. Education for sustainability thus plays an important part as the policy instrument of choice. In this context, the thesis also concludes that the environmental norm is, in almost unaltered form, transferred down to local authorities. Local level environmental policy thereby rests on the same normative foundations as the national policy discourse. Secondly, although Sweden has taken important steps on the way towards instigating new, environmental duties and responsibilities with the citizenry and towards expanding the citizenship sphere to encompass also the private, the image of the environmental citizen provided in the official environmental discourse still predominately resides within the framework of traditional, albeit environmentally sensitive, (civic-republican) citizenship.

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