Friday, 13 August 2010

Framing contests in SD: the growth of growth scepticism

Media coverage and public interest in SD is typically dominated by the more specific, narrower issue of climate change, which itself has become a fiercely contested arena where an array of individuals and institutions have sought to frame the issue as one of controversy and conspiracy rather than objective science. This framing contest is a complex and fascinating arena for academics, both as direct participants and as interested observers. And it's also completely infuriating of course - sometimes I just want to get mad before I think about getting even.

But if, as Zizek himself cautions in his latest book, getting mad is a waste of emotion, how do we as academics apply ourselves to getting even? I'm currently researching how we can use concepts of frame analysis and social movement theory to analyse framing contests, with a view to hopefully understanding more about how academic engagement and accounting interventions might produce more effective or even emancipatory outcomes.

It's worth noting that those making the case against climate change haven't had it all their own way of course, and have themselves been subject to counter-framing, typically by being labelled climate change sceptics, or perhaps more accurately, deniers. The Guardian's George Monbiot has gone toe-to-toe with many of the sceptics, and shed light on their frequently underhand tactics.

Recently, however, the tables have been turned once again, as debate about SD shifts away from climate change and more towards the broader issue of economic growth in a sustainable world. The same sceptic label applied to the climate change deniers is now being applied to the SD community, who are being framed as growth sceptics. This also allows the political right to tar many more opponents with the same brush, such as the distinguished academics researching the area of health inequality. It's clear that, while the SD community has perhaps been slow to connect the health inequality and climate change agendas, the political right is now keen to do this job for them...

1 comment:

  1. With regard to growth being an uncomplicatedly good thing ... it is good to be sceptical in this area. Tim Jackson's Prosperity Without Growth makes it clear that growth and SD are not compatible unless the nature of growth changes radically. Others have made this point before now - but Jackson's analysis is interesting because it also develops an argument that is hard to refute that growth in developed economies no longer delivers wellbeing. So while growth and SD are in contest so is growth and a 'good life'. This argument has been made by the likes of the Limits to Growth folk as well as the New Economics Foundation etc ... for me, however, Jackson has put it in a way that has reasonance with the current moment and his take is proving influential.