A escolha apesar da (in)comensurabilidade: Controvérsias e tomada de decisão pública acerca do desenvolvimento territorial sustentável

Abstract : Report of the project BECOM This project is meant to explore decision making devices (namely instruments and procedures) and their role in dealing with conflicts between (incommensurable) values as they arise in the process of public decision-making concerning the sustainability of projects with major impact on environment. With the European Union Directive 2001/42/EC the assessment procedure known as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) became a major instrument for implementing sustainable territorial development policies in the EU. Public decision is thus called to translate into practice the goal of territorial sustainable development - a guiding principle of public action that requires the composition of different and often contrasting definitions concerning desirable common goods to pursue (O'Neill 2007). However, the directive does not contain any indication in respect to the way in which this composition should be achieved, leaving thus room for controversies and varied, context-dependent, arrangements. In the literature concerned with public decision, the necessity to compose normative conflicting stances is addressed differently according to the approach to choice adopted. Two approaches, a monistic approach and a pluralistic approach, may be singled out as end points of a continuum. Both approaches have informed the definition of specific devices (instruments and procedures) to help public decision.The monistic approach to composition relies on commensurability. It has its basis in utilitarianism and its most sophisticated and influential contemporary applied form in cost-benefit analysis (Pearce et al. 2006; Posner 2004). According to this approach the resolution of conflicts of value requires their reduction to a common measure through which different values can be traded off with one another (Espeland and Stevens 1998). On the contrary, the pluralistic approach, supported by different theoretical traditions among which pragmatism stands out, claims that public choice may be rational in spite of value conflicts and incommensurability (Richardson 2002). Integrated and multicriteria approaches are devices of decision that try to operationalize the pluralistic approach to public decision. The project combines two different but interwoven explorations. The first is meant to analyse the translation of the monistic and the pluralistic approaches into "devices of decision" (cost-benefit analysis; integrated and multicriteria approaches). In particular, we aim at investigating how these devices (instruments and procedures) deal, technically, with value incommensurability and "moral difficulty", as well as with the epistemic uncertainty characterizing environmental issues. The second axis is devoted to the observation of how these devices have been enacted in controversies concerning large infrastructural projects, specifically airports, in two cases: the decision on the location of the new Lisbon airport and the decision on the extension of Milan airport. Through a comparative approach (Italy and Portugal) we are interested in addressing the role played by political cultures in the way these devices are implemented (Jasanoff 2007). In treating these tools and models of decision-making as specific socio-technical tools we are rejoining Science and Technology Studies (STS) in one of its recent trends of development: the move from studying how "hard" sciences participate in the shaping of our world in common towards studying, with the same purpose, the role of economics and social sciences (Callon 1998). The aim of the project is not advancing a formal model for decision making in socio-technical controversies involving value conflicts and incommensurability. Our contribution is rather directed towards a better understanding of how devices supporting public decision address issues of incommensurability in situations of normative and epistemic uncertainty. In particular, on the basis of the research results, we will work at pointing out some features of the devices (instruments and procedures) best suited to help transforming incommensurability in an opportunity for democratic debate concerning collective goals and means to pursue them. The theoretical and empirical exploration we propose is meant to develop a critical analysis of both the relevance of devices of decision in shaping public decision processes in socio-technical controversies and the pros and cons of the specific way in which they help in dealing with normative and epistemic uncertainty.
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Laura Centemeri, José Maria Castro Caldas. A escolha apesar da (in)comensurabilidade: Controvérsias e tomada de decisão pública acerca do desenvolvimento territorial sustentável. 2013. ⟨hal-01054935⟩

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