Introducing the New Rhetoric into organization studies
Risk is a key topic in the communication between developers of infrastructure projects, permit-granting authorities, and civil society. The nature of risk communication is contested among academics, however. Whereas some scholars conceive of risk communication as a matter of effectively communicating expert knowledge on factual matters to the public, others emphasize the role of symbolic construction and rhetoric. This article analyses how wind farm developers rhetorically construct risks in relation to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a proposed project. In Sweden, an EIA is a legally mandatory step in the application for an environmental permit. Our analysis is inspired by the New Rhetoric, the theory of argumentation developed by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1958). It deals with the EIA for the Kriegers Flak project, the largest wind farm project granted an environmental permit in Scandinavia to date. We suggest that the authors of the EIA adopt a dual risk communication strategy; in the EIA they associate numerous risks to the project by identifying and cataloguing them; however, these risks are immediately disconnected from the project by being described as acceptable, manageable, negligible, or nonexistent. Although we draw from a single case study, we suggest that this paradoxical risk/no-risk dualism is characteristic of risk communication in EIAs, and we discuss some implications of such rhetoric of communication.
|Date of creation:||06 Oct 2008|
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