Pragmatist Policy-making: Rethinking Deliberation and Experimentation in Contemporary Environmental Governance
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In this dissertation, I generate a theoretical grounding for the practice of collaborative environmental governance that emerges out of practice. The overall architecture of this dissertation traces the structure of Deweyan reconstruction. I first set out the problems that plague federal environmental governance and the turn to collaborative environmental governance in practice, situating them in historical context. I use forest policy and the case study of the Quincy Library Group to illustrate both the pathologies of federal regulation and the turn to collaboration and to inform my reconstruction of deliberation. I argue that the dominant Habermasian model of deliberation is inadequate to theorizing collaborative governance due to its abstraction and focus on the justificatory aspect of deliberation. I rethink the concept of deliberation, mobilizing critiques of the Habermasian model and resources in American pragmatist philosophy to reconceptualize deliberation as embodied, narrative, and oriented to experimental problem-solving. Drawing on empirical accounts of environmental collaboration, I argue that collaboration is centrally about members of a community working together across difference to solve shared concrete problems. Rational argument plays a role in collaboration, but it is not its transformatory engine. Rather, the building of trust between participants through narrative and storytelling is what enables transformation of beliefs and interests and makes collaboration possible. In contrast to the political theory literature, I assert that deliberation is oriented not only to generating democratic legitimacy but also to solving practical problems. Collaborative governance is both deliberative and experimental, and our theorizing must account for this. In the concluding chapter, I address the practical question of the institutional design of collaborative environmental governance. This theoretical work is integral to furthering policy-making practice because it provides a way for both policy-makers and scholars of public policy to understand what is at stake in the move to collaborative governance and provides a critical standard to guide the design and evaluation of collaboration in practice. For environmental policy-makers, it sheds light on why we have reason to be hopeful about collaborative policy-making and how we can strengthen these efforts on the ground.