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'Greater good' in transit

The unwieldy career of a Swedish rail tunnel project

Åsa Boholm

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.

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Åsa Boholm, Annette Henning, and Amanda Krzyworzeka

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.