Governmentality, pedagogy and membership categorization : a case of enrolling the citizen in sustainable regional planning

Summerville, Jennifer A. (2007) Governmentality, pedagogy and membership categorization : a case of enrolling the citizen in sustainable regional planning. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Over the past twenty years, the idea that planning and development practices should be ‘sustainable’ has become a key tenet of discourses characterising the field of planning and development. As part of the agenda to balance and integrate economic, environmental and social interests, democratic participatory governance arrangements are frequently purported to be necessary to achieve ‘sustainable development’ at both local and global levels. Despite the theoretical disjuncture between ideas of democratic civic participation, on the one hand, and civic participation as a means to achieve pre-determined sustainability goals on the other, notions of civic participation for sustainability have become integral features of sustainable development discourses.

Underpinned by a conceptual and methodological intent to perform an epistemological ‘break’ with notions of civic participation for sustainability, this thesis explicates how citizens are enrolled in the sustainable development agenda in the discourse of policy. More specifically, it examines how assumptions about civic participation in sustainable development policy discourses operate, and unpacks some discursive strategies through which policy language ‘enrols’ citizens in the same set of assumptions around their normative requirement for participation in sustainable development. Focussing in on a case study sustainable development policy document – a draft regional plan representing a case of ‘enrolling the citizen in sustainability’ - it employs three sociological perspectives/methods that progressively highlight some of the ways that the policy language enjoins citizens as active participants in ‘sustainable’ regional planning. As a thesis-by-publication, the application of each perspective/method is reported in the form of an article prepared for publication in an academic journal.

In a departure from common-sense understandings of civic participation for sustainability, the first article examines the governmentality of sustainable development policy. Specifically, this article explores how civic community – particularly community rights and responsibilities – are deployed in the policy discourse as techniques of government that shape and regulate the conduct of subjects. In this respect, rather than seeing civic community as a specific ‘thing’ and participation as corresponding to particular types of ‘activities’, this paper demonstrates how notions of civic participation are constructed and mobilised in the language of sustainable development policy in ways that facilitate government ‘at a distance’.

The second article begs another kind of question of the policy – one concerned more specifically with how the everyday practices of subjects become aligned with the principles of sustainable development. This paper, therefore, investigates the role of pedagogy in establishing governance relations in which citizens are called to participate as part of the problematic of sustainability. The analysis suggests that viewing the case study policy in terms of relationships of informal pedagogy provided insights into the positioning of the citizen as an ‘acquirer’ of sustainability principles. In this instance, the pedagogic values of the text provide for low levels of discretion in how citizens could position themselves in the moral order of the discourse. This results in a strong injunction for citizens to subscribe to sustainability principles in a participatory spirit coupled with the requirement for citizens to delegate to the experts to carry out these principles.

The third article represents a further breakdown of the ways in which citizens become enrolled in ‘sustainable’ regional planning within the language of the case study policy. Applying an ethnomethodological perspective, specifically Membership Categorization Analysis, this article examines the way ‘the citizen’ and ‘civic values and obligations’ are produced in the interactional context of the text. This study shows how the generation of a substantive moral order that ties the citizen to sustainable values and obligations with respect to the region, is underpinned by a normative morality associated with the production of orderliness in ‘text-in-interaction’. As such, it demonstrates how the production and positioning of ‘the citizen’ in relation to the institutional authors of the policy, and the region more generally, are practical accomplishments that orient the reader to identify him/herself as a ‘citizen’ and embrace the ‘civic values and obligations’ to which he/she is bound.

Together, the different conceptual and methodological approaches applied in the thesis provide a more holistic picture of the different ways in which citizens are discursively enrolled in the sustainability agenda. At the substantive level, each analysis reveals a different dimension of how the active citizen is mobilised as a responsible agent for sustainable development. In this respect, civic participation for sustainability is actualised and reproduced through the realms of language, not necessarily through applied occasions of civic participation in the ‘taken-for-granted’ sense. Furthermore, at the conceptual and methodological level, the thesis makes a significant contribution to sociological inquiry into relationships of governance. Rather than residing within the boundaries of a specific sociological perspective, it shows how different approaches that would traditionally be applied in a mutually exclusive manner, can complement each other to advance understanding of how governance discourses operate. In this respect, it provides a rigorous conceptual and methodological platform for further investigations into how citizens become enrolled in programmes of government.

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ID Code: 20508
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Adkins, Barbara, Harrison, Paul, & Kendall, Gavin
Keywords: sustainable development, civic participation, community consultation, participative democracy, regional planning, program theory, spontaneous sociology, epistemological break, governmentality, rights and responsibilities, pedagogic practice, classification and framing, membership categorization analysis, moral order, policy development, policy evaluation, Nikolas Rose, Basil Bernstein, Harvey Sacks, Pierre Bourdieu
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Past > Schools > Social Work & Human Services
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 18 May 2009 06:05
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:52

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