Reflexivity or Governmentality? The Curious Case of On-line Pollution Inventories
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The Internet is playing an increasingly significant role in the politics of environmental risk: pressures groups are now using homepages and e-mail as part of their normal campaigning, businesses are developing on-line marketing strategies, and states are increasingly trying to use the web as a tool of governance. One of the manifestations of these developments has been the creation of on-line pollution inventories that require polluting firms to publicly disclose their annual emissions on state controlled web sites. The idea is that the fear of negative publicity and protest will goad firms into reducing the level of environmental risk they create. This approach therefore has a significant impact on the Internet strategies of all three players: business, pressure groups and the state. This paper considers how to interpret these inventories by comparing explanations that can be generated using Foucault’s concept of governmentality and Beck’s notion reflexive modernisation. Examples are taken from Australia, the USA and UK. Overall it is argued that while both approaches offer an engaging description of responses to environmental risk, reflexivity also offers an embryonic praxis.
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