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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 332-344

How Stakeholder Co-management Reproduces Conservation Conflicts: Revealing Rationality Problems in Swedish Wolf Conservation

Environmental Communication Division, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Correspondence Address:
Erica von Essen
Environmental Communication Division, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.179881

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'Stakeholder' has become the primary category of political actor in decision-making, not least within nature conservation. Drawing from Habermas' theory on communicative action, this article argues that there are democratic deficits to the stakeholder model that promote citizens to remain locked in predetermined, polarized positions. It contends that the stakeholder model must, hence, be scrutinized with respect to its potential role in perpetuating conservation conflicts in modernity. Using the case study of stakeholder-based game management delegations (GMDs) in Sweden, our research identifies four barriers, which tie to the instrumental basis and liberal democratic legacy of the stakeholder approach: 1) strong sense of accountability; 2) overly purposive atmosphere; 3) overemphasis on decision as final outcome; and 4) perceived inability on the part of the delegates to influence science-led decision-making. The article suggests that these democratic deficits preclude the deliberation and contestation necessary to legitimate conservation policy. Indeed, stakeholder rationality causes citizens to become inert, instrumental agents who approach discussion with strategic rather than communicative rationality. We conclude that the deficits of the stakeholder model currently: 1) restrict democratic freedom for citizens; 2) engender a crisis of legitimacy of management; and 3) reproduce the conflict, which in Sweden relates to the conservation of wolves.

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