Högskolans skriftserier

The “Dark Side” of Marine Spatial Planning

A study of domination, empowerment and freedom through theories of discourse and power

Omslag för The “Dark Side” of Marine Spatial Planning: A study of domination, empowerment and freedom through theories of discourse and power

Tafon, Ralph Voma

This thesis aims to contribute to the marine spatial planning (MSP) literature by elaborating a robust theoretical account of power for a more rigorous and balanced critical analysis of MSP. Conceived as a problem-solving regime, MSP has emerged as a radical approach to govern the use and protection of marine resources. However, critics are questioning the radicalness of MSP, particularly its ability to address issues around knowledge, stakeholder and land-sea integration, as well as power asymmetry, distributive justice and equity. Nonetheless, critics largely conceive power in MSP as restricting agency. Even so, insidious mechanisms of power remain under-examined, as are the productive power and potential of planning. This thesis brings concepts from discourse and power theories together (drawing on Foucault, Laclau and Mouffe, and Haugaard) to conceptualize various mechanisms of power in MSP. The framework is then brought into dialogue with planning issues in Estonia and Poland. Empirical data are drawn from semi-structured interviews, legal judgments, planning and policy documents, as well as position papers and media statements, which are produced by planners, officials, developers, fishers and coastal residents. The following findings and conclusions are reached. First, MSP’ing (verb form) restricts agency because (a) in planning encounters, powerful actors misuse opportunities for concerted action to reach sectoral rather than collective goals; (b) in setting the agenda, various biases are mobilized in favor of vested interests; and (c) the fantasmatic power of planning conjoin with the planner’s cognitive limitation to naturalize and sustain subjugation. Second, MSP is a laudable system. It provides stakeholders with the dispositional power to get things done in concert, which entails a normatively felicitous move from the risks of open commons-type conflicts and chaos to structuring and predictability. Third, when planning is rigidly done within the confines of legality and programmatic norms, “free” subjects of planning may be transformed into immovable subjects of resistance, who may develop contestatory strategies that have transformatory potentials. Fourth, to both facilitate equitable planning processes and outcomes, and ensure efficiency and stability, not only must the planner be reflective of the norms and ideologies that shape her actions and/or inactions, but the state as the ultimate governing authority in MSP must also take measures to minimize asymmetries in the distribution of social resources. The thesis makes a call for scholars to contribute towards planning praxis through analyzing who the weakest actors are in each MSP setting, what their context-specific needs are, and what empowerment may entail for them.

Huddinge : Södertörns högskola, 2019. 180 sidor.

ISBN 978-91-88663-67-2

Serie: Södertörn Doctoral Dissertations, 1652-7399 ; 164

Alfred Nobels allé 7 Flemingsberg

141 89 Huddinge

08-608 40 00


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