This article, part of a set of three articles, calls for a critical reexamination of a plethora of phenomena relating to choice and decision making, occasionally addressed by anthropologists, but more regularly studied by economists, political scientists, psychologists, and organization scholars. By means of a bird's-eye research overview, we identify certain weak spots pertaining to a formalistic unicentral view of human rationality, and argue that ethnographic approaches casting light on cultural contexts for thought, reason, and action can explain how choices are framed and constituted from horizons of perceptions and expectations. A positive account of socially and culturally embedded decision making heralds a mode of anthropology with a broad, integrating capacity to address public policy and administration and their interactions with everyday experience and practice.
Åsa Boholm, Annette Henning and Amanda Krzyworzeka
Feminist critiques of deliberative democracy have focused on the abstraction, impartiality and rationality of mainstream accounts of deliberation. This paper explores the claim, common to many of these critiques, that these features are problematic because they are gendered, and that a more women-friendly account of democracy would embrace corporeality, contextuality and the affective. While acknowledging the merit of such a claim, the paper nonetheless suggests that the pursuit of social justice and democratic inclusion actually leads many feminists to embrace a modified account of deliberative democracy, albeit in a modified account form. This can be explained by the dialogical conception of impartiality offered by theories of deliberative democracy. The paper suggests that the embrace of deliberative democracy by feminist theorists is a positive move, to be more widely acknowledged. Moreover, once acknowledged, feminists have much to offer deliberative democrats in terms of considering what the pursuit of dialogic impartiality might entail. If conceived as demanding both a 'lack of bias' and 'inclusivity', attention needs to be focused squarely on the issue of inclusion, and the institutional and material conditions for securing inclusion in deliberation.
Edward J. Woodhouse
Was the Hurricane Katrina disaster an aberration, or did it emerge from decision-making processes similar to those governing other public outcomes? Is it more reasonable to expect post-disaster analyses to lead to systematic learning and improved policy, or not to change very much? Most generally, what can be learned about appropriate expertise and usable knowledge from the Katrina experience? I argue that many of the same processes and institutions are at work to create vulnerable populations, design the built environment carelessly with respect to public values, place barriers in the way of preventive action, and make it difficult for experts to contribute to improved outcomes. No doubt there will be some hurricane-specific learning in Katrina's wake, such as more houses on stilts, but political influentials are unlikely to revamp the systemic norms, practices, and institutions that helped shape the disaster. Implications are discussed for interdisciplinary, problem-focused research and community service by scientists, engineers, and other experts.
The agricultural situation in Poland has been changing significantly during the last decades. In 1989, the predictability of the communist centrally planned economy was replaced by the unexpectedness and "invisible hand" of the free market economy. The socialist welfare state has been replaced by new modes of support, introduced by European Union (EU). On the basis of fieldwork conducted between 2005 and 2008 in farming communities in eastern Poland, I focus on decision making among small-scale farmers. This article addresses decision-making processes and their sociocultural context, including the reasons for and circumstances behind decisions, and also elements of decision-making processes that tend to hinder the introduction of EU agricultural policy. In the course of adapting to new and changing realities, farmers creatively use customary ways of thinking and acting in the various decisions they have to make while running the farm. Changes of the very mechanisms of decision-making processes seem to be rather slow, however.
Annelie Sjölander-Lindqvist and Serena Cinque
According to Swedish environmental policy, harm to private property (mainly livestock, farm, and companion animals) caused by attacks from protected large carnivores is compensated by the state. In a case of suspected harm, a formal investigation process to assess the damage and its cause is initiated by the government. Inspections of damage on living private property are carried out by officials authorized by the regional County Administrative Board (CAB). By focusing on judgment in the making of property compensation decisions, this article demonstrates what occurs in frontline policy enactments, when the inspectors (as deliverers of political decisions) collapse organizational requirements and ideas with personal, yet socially and culturally framed commitments. It concludes that organizational decision making is neither fixed nor stable: organizations operate interactively, generating practices that enhance the agency and authority of particular actors in order to facilitate state policy implementation.
In modern medicine, patient choice and involvement in treatment decision-making are increasingly recognised as an important issue in improving the quality of healthcare, and in recent years the concept of shared decision-making has attracted attention as a new approach in the medical encounter. This model is particularly appropriate in life-threatening situations in which no best treatment exists and there are trade-offs between benefits and risk of available treatments. In this article, I demonstrate how clinical uncertainty makes shared decision-making difficult in practice, using the case of elderly patients with end-stage renal failure based on data collected by interviewing renal healthcare professionals in the U.K. I then propose the possibility of 'patient choice' becoming a burden for some elderly patients and the institutionalisation of shared decision-making, and discuss the importance of building a good relationship between healthcare professionals and patients to facilitate shared decision-making.
In the space of little over a month, between 31 October and 6 December
2005, the proposed Turin-Lyon high-speed train (Treno Alta Velocità, or
TAV) line became a national news story following the dramatic protests
that marked initial attempts to open exploratory survey sites. On 31
October, the “Battle of Rocciamelone” took place between police and
demonstrators who were blocking access to the Seghino site, where
drilling was due to commence. In the ensuing days, protests were held
across the valley, culminating on 16 November in a general strike and
“the march of the 80,000” from Bussoleno to Susa. On 30 November
and 1 December, protestors gathered at Venaus—where another, far
more important construction site for a long exploratory tunnel was
planned—and set up a camp, which was then dismantled by police
during the night of 5–6 December.