Applying Habermas's critical theory to public administration and policy: A case study of Florida Everglades restoration program

Knox, Claire (2010) Applying Habermas's critical theory to public administration and policy: A case study of Florida Everglades restoration program. In: Shifting Shorelines: Adapting to the Future,The 22nd International Conference of The Coastal Society , June 13-16, 2010 ,Wilmington, North Carolina,

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Official URL: http://nsgl.gso.uri.edu/coastalsociety/TCS22/paper...

Abstract

The foundation of Habermas's argument, a leading critical theorist, lies in the unequal distribution of wealth across society. He states that in an advanced capitalist society, the possibility of a crisis has shifted from the economic and political spheres to the legitimation system. Legitimation crises increase the more government intervenes into the economy (market) and the "simultaneous political enfranchisement of almost the entire adult population" (Holub, 1991, p. 88). The reason for this increase is because policymakers in advanced capitalist democracies are caught between conflicting imperatives: they are expected to serve the interests of their nation as a whole, but they must prop up an economic system that benefits the wealthy at the expense of most workers and the environment. Habermas argues that the driving force in history is an expectation, built into the nature of language, that norms, laws, and institutions will serve the interests of the entire population and not just those of a special group. In his view, policy makers in capitalist societies are having to fend off this expectation by simultaneously correcting some of the inequities of the market, denying that they have control over people's economic circumstances, and defending the market as an equitable allocator of income. (deHaven-Smith, 1988, p. 14). Critical theory suggests that this contradiction will be reflected in Everglades policy by communicative narratives that suppress and conceal tensions between environmental and economic priorities. Habermas’ Legitimation Crisis states that political actors use various symbols, ideologies, narratives, and language to engage the public and avoid a legitimation crisis. These influences not only manipulate the general population into desiring what has been manufactured for them, but also leave them feeling unfulfilled and alienated. Also known as false reconciliation, the public's view of society as rational, and "conductive to human freedom and happiness" is altered to become deeply irrational and an obstacle to the desired freedom and happiness (Finlayson, 2005, p. 5). These obstacles and irrationalities give rise to potential crises in the society. Government's increasing involvement in Everglades under advanced capitalism leads to Habermas's four crises: economic/environmental, rationality, legitimation, and motivation. These crises are occurring simultaneously, work in conjunction with each other, and arise when a principle of organization is challenged by increased production needs (deHaven-Smith, 1988). Habermas states that governments use narratives in an attempt to rationalize, legitimize, obscure, and conceal its actions under advanced capitalism. Although there have been many narratives told throughout the history of the Everglades (such as the Everglades was a wilderness that was valued as a wasteland in its natural state), the most recent narrative, “Everglades Restoration”, is the focus of this paper.(PDF contains 4 pages)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item
Title: Applying Habermas's critical theory to public administration and policy: A case study of Florida Everglades restoration program
Personal Creator/Author:
CreatorsEmail
Knox, Claireclairecknox@hotmail.com
Date: 2010
Funders: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. EPA Coastal Management Branch, U.S. Geolgocial Survey, NOAA Sea Grant
Event Title: Shifting Shorelines: Adapting to the Future,The 22nd International Conference of The Coastal Society
Event Type: Conference
Event Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Event Dates: June 13-16, 2010
Issuing Agency: The Coastal Society
Uncontrolled Keywords: TCS22
Subjects: Conservation
Ecology
Management
Item ID: 3923
Depositing User: Cynthia Murray
Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2010 20:19
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2011 16:41
URI: http://aquaticcommons.org/id/eprint/3923

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