Cost-Benefit Analysis as Democratic Ritual: The Controversy Over a Proposed Uranium Mining and Milling Project in Virginia (1981-2013)
de Souza, Charles Robert
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This dissertation explores the role of science and technology in democracy and the use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) through an illustrative case on a uranium mining controversy in the US state of Virginia. Arguably, traditional STS scholarship has primarily served what we might call an unmasking function by working to expose political, cultural, gender, corporate, and other factors that get masked by the cultural authority of scientific expertise. Following the lead of other STS scholars seeking to move beyond an unmasking-only mode of scholarship, this dissertation offers a novel take on the relationship between expertise and public controversy over technoscience by suggesting that cost-benefit analysis might serve a beneficial pro-democratic ritual role. To explore this question of the role played by expertise and what we might learn and recommend from approaching CBA as a democratic ritual, I consider the case of a uranium mining and milling controversy in Virginia. This controversy surfaced in two distinct historical moments and prominently featured technical studies utilizing expert predictive methods. I analyze these texts from the perspective of the sociopolitical ritual theory developed in the dissertation and then suggest a set of recommendations regarding how we might humanize and deploy CBA within the context of enhancing rituals that serve to maintain liberal democratic political imaginaries.
- Doctoral Dissertations