Deliberation and sustainability : a frame analysis of policymakers' understanding of the relationship between deliberation and sustainability

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

Abstract: As the effects of climate change intensifies, the tension between slow democratic processes and the need for urgent change towards sustainability is becoming more evident. This thesis aims to investigate how policymakers understand the relationship between deliberation and sustainability through a frame analysis and to identify tensions between the frames. The data consists of two policy documents, two interviews with politicians, and one interview with an official. The results are three frames; the system change frame, the participation frame, and the conflict frame. In the system change frame, deliberation is perceived to induce democratic engagement among citizens, which in turn will lead to structural change. This structural change is believed to have positive outcomes on ecological and social sustainability. The participation frame understands deliberation as a tool to increase social sustainability by emphasising the potential to increase diverse citizen democratic engagement, without necessarily resulting in system change. In the conflict frame, the controversy around issues related to sustainability is highlighted, and deliberation is seen as a tool to deal with conflicts constructively. A tension between the system change and participation frames arises in how radical a system change can be when deliberation, according to the participation frame, cannot guarantee sustainable outcomes. Another tension is highlighted between the system change and conflict frames, where the purpose of deliberation is understood differently. Further research could investigate how the tensions can be managed in practice and to study how practitioners and citizens understand the relationship between deliberation and sustainability to deepen the theoretical knowledge.

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