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Contesting sustainability in theory-practice: In praise of ambivalence


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Davison, A 2008 , 'Contesting sustainability in theory-practice: In praise of ambivalence' , Continuum, vol. 22, no. 2 , pp. 191-199 , doi: 10.1080/10304310701861598.

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A great deal has been written about the complexity and multiplicity of the essentially
contested concept of sustainability (Becker and Jahn 1999; Dobson 1999; Harris et al.
2001; recent contributions include Baker 2006; Connelly 2007; Newman 2007; Redclift
2005). Many have lamented the slippery, shape-shifting nature of this concept and that it
has accumulated an absurd number of definitions. As early as 1988, Richard Norgaard
(1988, 607) observed that, with the concept meaning ‘something different to everyone, the
quest for sustainable development is off to a cacophonous start’. This quest has been not
only noisy but impassioned. Sustainability is a preoccupation that simultaneously engages
powers of reason, belief and feeling, messing up any neat separation of descriptive and
normative claims. An extraordinarily elastic concept, it is not surprising that ‘public
discussion concerning the environment has become primarily a discourse of sustainability’
(Torgerson 1995, 10).

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Davison, A
Journal or Publication Title: Continuum
ISSN: 1030-4312
DOI / ID Number: 10.1080/10304310701861598
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