Accepted paper:

Decision making in context: a case of Swedish rail planning in practice

Author:

Åsa Boholm (University Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

The context of decision making in land-use planning is discussed by taking into account a case of Swedish rail way planning. In decision making technical standards, expert judgements, stake holder interests and priorities, are negotiated according to an administrative logic of efficiency.

Paper long abstract:

Land use planning in cases of e.g. transportation infrastructure facilities, energy plants, waste disposal facilities, or mining enterprises actualises a multitude of prospected consequences. Planning must take into account an array of intended outcomes, unwanted side-effects and incertitude. To make the picture even more complicated, negative effects or benefits to society associated with a project, including risks to humans and to the natural environment, are seldom understood and prioritized according to one single frame of reference. This paper addresses the multidimensional context of decision making in land-use planning by taking into account a case of Swedish rail way planning under the government authority of the National Rail Administration. According to the Rail Building Act and the Environmental Code consultation with municipalities, stakeholders, the county administrative board, other authorities, and real estate owners, is mandatory in the planning for a new rail way line. Decision making involves officials, consultants and experts, and is organised within a highly regulated administrative setting characterised by strong demands on efficiency and legality. Expert competencies, stake holder interests and priorities, are negotiated and balanced in accordance with an administrative logic of efficiency (producing pre-defined outcomes in relation to a set budget and time frame and following a standardised set of rules). In this setting decisions emerge as negotiated (temporary) achievements rather than determined final choices resulting from a rational process of calculating costs, benefits, and risks for identified decision alternatives in accordance with set preferences, as assumed by normative social science planning theory.

panel W003
Towards an anthropology of decision making