Constructing Politics : Discrepancy and Discourses in the E-waste Domain
The societal benefits of new technology and electronic products can hardly be underestimated. However, new technological achievements bring problems as well since obsolete products, due to ever-growing amounts and complex composition, are difficult to handle in a sound manner. Currently electronic waste constitutes the single fastest growing waste stream in society. It is also common that e-waste is exported to low-income countries where it generally is recycled under rudimentary conditions, leading to large-scale environmental and health effects. The political handling of the issue has enjoyed moderate success internationally as well as nationally. The shaping of environmental politics is however, according to many researchers, a complex process involving many actors, something that generally is not reflected inofficial politics. The purpose of this thesis is to map out the different discourses inherent in the public debates on e-waste in Sweden and the USA respectively, and compare how they might influence the political management of the e-waste issue. A number of newspaper articles, reports and press releases from NGOs and trade organizations have been analyzed with a discourse analysis method, influenced by John Dryzek and Michel Foucault. The term “order of discourse” has been borrowed by Norman Fairclough as an analytical tool. In the U.S. material a conflictual, unclear order of discourse appeared where most of the actors were portrayed as equal political players. However there was an apparent red thread as the question was framed as an economic issue by the majority of actors. In the Swedish material a very clear order of discourse was identified, where mainly two discourses were dominant. Drawing on the analysis it could be concluded that there were several probable explanations for the contemporary political handling. The perspective of the key actors El-Kretsen and the U.S. EPA was concluded to impair the political handling, while the framing of the issue as a question for experts in the Swedish material was considered another explanation.
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