Sustainable Development: How to manage something that is subjective and that never can be reached?

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this article examines the notion of sustainable development that has emerged as a new normative orientation of western society. We argue that sustainable development is an inherently subjective concept and for this reason requires deliberative forms of governance and assessment. We outline the contours of sustainability science as a new form of science, complementing traditional science. Such science is to be used in service to reflexive modes of governance, for which we outline the general principles and offer a practical illustration, the transition-management model. The example shows that it is possible to work toward sustainable development as an elusive goal through provisional knowledge about our needs and systems to satisfy these needs. Heterogeneous local understandings and appreciations are not suppressed but drawn into the transition process in various ways such as participatory integrated assessment and social deliberation. The social interest in sustainable development is exploited without falling into the modernistic trap of rational decision making that disregards local cultures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSustainability: Science, Practice & Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


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