Working Paper 123

Moral Talk: the ontological politics of sustainable development

Melanie Wiber and Bertram Turner

Projektgruppe Rechtspluralismus

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 123

Recent research suggests that the transformation of rural places has much in common wherever it is taking place (Turner and Wiber 2009). This paper explores why that might be so. It focuses on resource exploitation in two separate field sites, the Moroccan Souss and the Canadian Maritimes. We consider both technological innovation and the issue of moral translation processes (Latour 2003, 2005; Law 2004), in order to examine the ontological politics of sustainable development. In both case studies, successive waves of technological innovation have led to normative pluralization, as the relative merits of different modes of production are debated in what we describe as ‘moral talk’. These debates take place among local actors, and between local actors and state or transnational actors. In the process, values such as environmental sustainability, economic development, family relations, and social equity are fiercely contested, with several different versions of possible future realities at stake. The resulting outcomes reveal the complex nature of globalization, the real impacts experienced both for the environmental and for social equity, and the role that legal pluralism plays in rural property transformations.

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