Forms of valuing nature: arguments and modes of justification in French and American environmental disputes

  • Thevenot L
  • Moody M
  • Lafaye C
  • 66


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Reviews the argumentative justifications used by actors in two ecological debates in the U.S. and France. Based on textual analysis, participant observation and interviews with key actors. Utilizes Boltanski and Thevenot's definition of a justification as "the type of appeal to a common good characteristic of a set of different 'orders of worth' regarded as particularly legitimate" (236). The authors identified several types of justifications: 1. Market (short-term benefits) - combined in the US with civic arguments. Less common in France where they usually originated with the EU; 2. Planning and technical competency (long-term benefits) - in the US much more than in France these arguments were blended with green arguments ("wise use"); 3. Solidarity is combined in France with civic arguments but in the US with market judgments; 4. domesitc arguments had a more collective flavor in France (opposing the freeway to conserve the inhabitants' patrimoine), while in the US these arguments highlighted oppostion to the dam based on the harm it would do to the local's "backyard"; 5. Renown - arguments and tactics that explicitly tried to mold public opinion or argued for a position based on the public's reputed support were much more legitimate in the US than in France, where these tactics are used less; 6. Green - such arguments were used in both countries. In the US they were often linked to the value an undisturbed wilderness has generally and sometimes to the value it has for tourism. In France purely ecological arguments were blended with domestic arguments regarding the defence of the human and natural environement that cohabitate in the valley. Authors note that in some cases promoters of the French freeway delegitimzed green arguments by labelling them "American", a tactic that was used also by some French women in debates about sexual harrasment.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cognate prelim
  • France
  • comparative research

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  • Laurent Thevenot

  • Michael Moody

  • Claudette Lafaye

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