The discursive battle for Lysekil : An argumentative discourse analysis of the Swedish Preem refinery debate

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: This thesis investigates the role of discourse in our understanding of environmental issues, using an argumentative discourse analytical approach developed by Maarten Hajer. The case under study is the public debate around the Preem refinery expansion in the Swedish town of Lysekil, which mainly took place between 2019–2020. Particularly interesting about this case was the puzzling fact that all actors involved used climate-change mitigation as their main argument, regardless of being for or against the expansion, thus signalling differences in problem perception and representation. The ensuing public debate furthermore provided the opportunity to study Swedish environmental discourse in a non-traditional political arena. The results show the existence of four distinct discourses in the debate: one reformist, one pragmatic, one legalist, and one industrialist. All four refer to climate-change in their arguments but use it to promote different and conflicting actions. Interestingly, the results also show that both the reformist and the industrialist discourses were equally frequent in the debate, indicating the presence of two dominant discourses rather than one. Furthermore, despite the reformist being strictly anti-expansion and the industrialist being for expansion, they showed similarities in their ideological standpoints. Both discourses showed signs of ecomodernism, indicating a diversity within the Swedish ecomodernist discourse. Lastly, I conclude that the different discourses can be understood through the concept of discursive closure, where the ambiguity and simplification of concepts like climate-change lead actors to interpret it differently despite agreeing on the realness and severity of the issue.

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