The emergence of mistrustful civic vigilance in Finnish, French, German and Spanish nuclear policies: ideological trust and (de)politicization

Markku Lehtonen, Ana Prades, Josep Espluga, Wilfried Konrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

High levels of public trust in institutions and generalised interpersonal trust in “the unknown other” are generally seen to facilitate decision-making on nuclear energy and waste. However, earlier research has highlighted the potential virtues of mistrustful “civic vigilance” and politicisation as means of enhancing the robustness of policy decisions. Drawing on expert and stakeholder interviews as well as secondary material, this article examines the role of the largely neglected ideological dimension of trust in shaping the emergence of civic vigilance in the form of counter-expertise in four countries with distinct trust profiles: Finland as a “high-trust society”, France and Spain as “societies of mistrust”, and Germany as an intermediate case. The article concludes by stressing the co-evolution of civic vigilance with ideological and institutional trust, processes of (de)politicisation, and with the historically shaped and continuously evolving context. Strong ideological trust in the state has in Finland hindered the development of mistrustful counter-expertise, but has in France and Germany provided a foundation for its emergence, whereas the weakness of ideological trust in the state has in Spain undermined civic vigilance. The hypothesis that politicisation–opening up the debate and policymaking to broader publics–fosters the emergence of mistrustful civic vigilance holds for Finland, and largely for France and Germany, whereas in Spain, the particular form of politicisation–as “nuclearisation of politics”–has hampered the development of counter-expertise.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Early online date20 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Nuclear power
  • history of nuclear power
  • politicisation
  • radioactive waste management
  • trust

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