Advanced

Studier i symbolpolitik

Santesson-Wilson, Peter LU (2003)
Abstract (Swedish)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

Varför beslutar politiker ibland att vidta till synes effektlösa åtgärder? Varför uppstår ibland stora politiska konflikter i små frågor? I vanliga fall vidtar man en politisk åtgärd därför att man eftersträvar det konkreta resultatet av åtgärden. Symbolpolitik är när en politisk fråga blir viktig, inte beroende på vad den konkret innebär och leder till, utan på grund av hur den tolkas och vad den anses symbolisera. Termen ”symbolpolitik” förekommer regelbundet i den politiska journalistiken, ofta som en nedsättande anklagelse om politisk ohederlighet. Däremot har symbolpolitik hittills inte utforskats vetenskapligt i någon större utsträckning. I Studier i Symbolpolitik analyseras... (More)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

Varför beslutar politiker ibland att vidta till synes effektlösa åtgärder? Varför uppstår ibland stora politiska konflikter i små frågor? I vanliga fall vidtar man en politisk åtgärd därför att man eftersträvar det konkreta resultatet av åtgärden. Symbolpolitik är när en politisk fråga blir viktig, inte beroende på vad den konkret innebär och leder till, utan på grund av hur den tolkas och vad den anses symbolisera. Termen ”symbolpolitik” förekommer regelbundet i den politiska journalistiken, ofta som en nedsättande anklagelse om politisk ohederlighet. Däremot har symbolpolitik hittills inte utforskats vetenskapligt i någon större utsträckning. I Studier i Symbolpolitik analyseras symbolpolitikens mekanismer och deras påverkan på politiskt beslutsfattande. Särskilt studeras två aktuella frågor i svensk politik: beslutet om en statlig bredbandssatsning år 2000 och beslutet att inleda kärnkraftsavvecklingen med stängningen av Barsebäcksreaktorerna år 1997.



Symbolpolitik är ett svårpreciserat begrepp. Man kan dela in symbolpolitiska fenomen i åtminstone fyra olika sorter: kategorier, principer, exempel och uttryck. (1) Kategorier är sätt att skapa kopplingar mellan frågor, inte därför att den ena skulle påverka den andra rent orsaksmässigt, utan därför att de anses vara samma slags frågor: de hör till samma kategori. (2) Principer innebär att ens värderingar i frågan påverkas av kategoriseringen. Eftersom frågorna är av samma slag, så bör de också hanteras på samma sätt. Allting som man är beredd att göra med den ena frågan är man också beredd att göra med alla andra frågor som är av samma slag. (3) Exempel är när en enskild politisk fråga blir viktig därför att den lyfts fram som ett typiskt exempel på ett mycket större fenomen. Därmed börjar man tänka på det större fenomenet i termer av den enskildhet som man låter exemplifiera det. Säldöden under sommaren 1988 blev politiskt viktig, inte därför att värnandet om sälungarnas hälsa var politiskt centralt, utan därför att fenomenet fungerade som ett exempel som gjorde de tidigare abstrakta miljöfrågorna konkreta och känslomässigt engagerande. (4) Uttryck är när man använder politiska beslut för att skicka signaler om ens attityder och motiv. Detta kan vara attraktivt i situationer då verbala ställningstaganden saknar trovärdighet eller om en aktör medvetet vill sända motstridiga signaler med ett och samma beslut.



Symbolpolitik är inte ett antingen-eller-fenomen: det är mycket sällsynt med politiska beslut som är renodlat symboliska eller som helt saknar symboliska inslag. Vad man finner är grader av symbolpolitik som blandas med traditionella, instrumentella faktorer i beslutsfattandet. Avhandlingen ger redskap för att analysera sådana blandningar och för att kunna skilja på olika former av symbolpolitik. Vidare diskuteras symbolpolitikens betydelse i politisk strategi.



I de båda fallstudierna återfinns blandningar av såväl symbolpolitiska som traditionella instrumentella inslag i beslutsfattandet. I bredbandsbeslutet år 2000 framstod bredbandsförbindelser som ett prototypiskt exempel på IT och Den Nya Ekonomin, vilket innebar att regeringen kunde signalera engagemang i Den Nya Ekonomin genom att agera i bredbandsfrågan. 1997 års beslut att inleda kärnkraftsavvecklingen var delvis en symbolpolitisk lösning på en allvarlig målkonflikt som den socialdemokratiska regeringen stod inför. Avvecklingen av Barsebäck 1 signalerade fortsatt engagemang för 1980 års avvecklingsbeslut. Därmed kunde regeringen samtidigt överge avvecklingsmålet år 2010 utan att drabbas av en svekdebatt. (Less)
Abstract
Symbolic politics is the degree to which political decision-making is motivated, not by the tangible aspects of the decision, but by the interpretation of what the decision represents symbolically. While symbolic politics is widely recognized as an important aspect of political decision-making, the phenomenon is insufficiently explored in political science. The first aim of the present dissertation is to develop and systematize concepts and mechanisms necessary for the study of symbolic politics. The second aim is to make a preliminary evaluation of the explanatory power of the suggested concepts. This is done by applying the concepts in two case studies of current Swedish policy-making. The first case is a study of the decision in 2000 to... (More)
Symbolic politics is the degree to which political decision-making is motivated, not by the tangible aspects of the decision, but by the interpretation of what the decision represents symbolically. While symbolic politics is widely recognized as an important aspect of political decision-making, the phenomenon is insufficiently explored in political science. The first aim of the present dissertation is to develop and systematize concepts and mechanisms necessary for the study of symbolic politics. The second aim is to make a preliminary evaluation of the explanatory power of the suggested concepts. This is done by applying the concepts in two case studies of current Swedish policy-making. The first case is a study of the decision in 2000 to give state subsidies to broadband Internet connections. The second case is a study of the decision in 1997 to commence the nuclear power phase-out by closing the Barsebäck nuclear power plant. Symbolic politics is suggested to be defined negatively, as being those aspects of a political decision that are not tangible. The taxonomy of symbolic politics consists of four varieties: categories, principles, examples, and expressions. Categories are ways to create a symbolic connection between political issues by cognitively grouping them together. Principles are ways to give the categorization normative implications: since the issues are alike, they should be treated alike. Examples are instances where a single member of the group is offered as prototypical example of the entire group. An expression is the communicative use of political decisions, a deliberate signal or an unintended symptom of the actor’s intentions. The taxonomy of symbolic politics can be incorporated in general theories of policy processes and political decision-making. Categories play an integral part of almost all public policy theories, and can help to explain problem-definition processes. Principles are techniques to expand the scope of a political conflict and mobilize new groups of actors. Examples are important to raise attention, both on an individual level, and on the political agenda. Expressions can be used both to expand and to contract the scope of a political conflict. The first case study, the broadband decision in 2000, reveals a mixture of instrumental and symbolic factors explaining the decision. Broadband connections were used as a prototypical example of Internet and information technology. In order to signal governmental commitment to it, the social democratic government changed their previously demand-based policy towards a more supply-oriented one. The second case study, the decision in 1997 to commence the nuclear power phase-out by closing the Barsebäck nuclear power plant, reveals a similar mixture of motives. It was decided in 1980 that all Swedish nuclear power should be phased-out before 2010. Fifteen years on, the credibility of this decision had successively eroded. By closing one nuclear reactor, and thereby sending a signal reassuring of the government’s commitment to the phase-out, it was possible to abandon the 2010-limit without being accused of disrespecting the popular will. The symbolic political taxonomy is concluded to hold enough promise to warrant further elaboration. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
opponent
  • Docent Falkemark, Gunnar, Göteborgs universitet
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Political and administrative sciences, nuclear power, information technology, policy studies, symbolic politics, decision-making, Statsvetenskap, förvaltningskunskap
pages
268 pages
publisher
Department of Political Science, Lund University
defense location
Carolinasalen, Kungshuset, kl. 10.15.
defense date
2003-05-26 10:15
ISSN
0460-0037
ISBN
91-88306-31-3
language
Swedish
LU publication?
yes
id
ac669a7a-1af3-45a1-bbd9-837c81518160 (old id 21100)
date added to LUP
2007-05-25 12:04:47
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:44:55
@phdthesis{ac669a7a-1af3-45a1-bbd9-837c81518160,
  abstract     = {Symbolic politics is the degree to which political decision-making is motivated, not by the tangible aspects of the decision, but by the interpretation of what the decision represents symbolically. While symbolic politics is widely recognized as an important aspect of political decision-making, the phenomenon is insufficiently explored in political science. The first aim of the present dissertation is to develop and systematize concepts and mechanisms necessary for the study of symbolic politics. The second aim is to make a preliminary evaluation of the explanatory power of the suggested concepts. This is done by applying the concepts in two case studies of current Swedish policy-making. The first case is a study of the decision in 2000 to give state subsidies to broadband Internet connections. The second case is a study of the decision in 1997 to commence the nuclear power phase-out by closing the Barsebäck nuclear power plant. Symbolic politics is suggested to be defined negatively, as being those aspects of a political decision that are not tangible. The taxonomy of symbolic politics consists of four varieties: categories, principles, examples, and expressions. Categories are ways to create a symbolic connection between political issues by cognitively grouping them together. Principles are ways to give the categorization normative implications: since the issues are alike, they should be treated alike. Examples are instances where a single member of the group is offered as prototypical example of the entire group. An expression is the communicative use of political decisions, a deliberate signal or an unintended symptom of the actor’s intentions. The taxonomy of symbolic politics can be incorporated in general theories of policy processes and political decision-making. Categories play an integral part of almost all public policy theories, and can help to explain problem-definition processes. Principles are techniques to expand the scope of a political conflict and mobilize new groups of actors. Examples are important to raise attention, both on an individual level, and on the political agenda. Expressions can be used both to expand and to contract the scope of a political conflict. The first case study, the broadband decision in 2000, reveals a mixture of instrumental and symbolic factors explaining the decision. Broadband connections were used as a prototypical example of Internet and information technology. In order to signal governmental commitment to it, the social democratic government changed their previously demand-based policy towards a more supply-oriented one. The second case study, the decision in 1997 to commence the nuclear power phase-out by closing the Barsebäck nuclear power plant, reveals a similar mixture of motives. It was decided in 1980 that all Swedish nuclear power should be phased-out before 2010. Fifteen years on, the credibility of this decision had successively eroded. By closing one nuclear reactor, and thereby sending a signal reassuring of the government’s commitment to the phase-out, it was possible to abandon the 2010-limit without being accused of disrespecting the popular will. The symbolic political taxonomy is concluded to hold enough promise to warrant further elaboration.},
  author       = {Santesson-Wilson, Peter},
  isbn         = {91-88306-31-3},
  issn         = {0460-0037},
  keyword      = {Political and administrative sciences,nuclear power,information technology,policy studies,symbolic politics,decision-making,Statsvetenskap,förvaltningskunskap},
  language     = {swe},
  pages        = {268},
  publisher    = {Department of Political Science, Lund University},
  school       = {Lund University},
  title        = {Studier i symbolpolitik},
  year         = {2003},
}