'Greater good' in transit

The unwieldy career of a Swedish rail tunnel project

in Focaal
Restricted access

Large-scale technological projects are born as visions among politicians and leaders of industry. For such visions to become real, they must be transformed from a virtual existence in the minds of their creators to a reality that can be accepted, even welcomed, by the public, not least by the communities who will become neighbors to those projects. Democracy implies that political decisions over the expenditure of public funds should answer not merely to the partial interests of stakeholders but should be accountable to the 'greater good' of society at large. Since a technological project materializes in what Latour calls a 'variable ontology-world', the greater good associated with it can be expected to be dynamic and shifting. The Hallandsås railway tunnel in southwestern Sweden illustrates how the very premises of the project's organizational logic have changed over time, the discourse of the greater good moving from an economical focus to an environmental one.