Corporate conceptions of sustainable development in New Zealand : a critical analysis
Critical Theory and Foucauldian Theory are employed to construct an epistemological framework from which to critique different theoretical conversations about sustainable development and to tell a contextually grounded story about business and sustainable development in New Zealand. It is concluded that management theory and the 'green business' literature present a case for 'management' of the construct that has itself become part of the 'problem’, constructing 'sustainable development' as 'political sustainability'. The structural causes of unsustainable development and unsustainable business fail to be problematised, providing a gap that this research explores. The emerging 'critical’ literature is reviewed; and a research matrix constructed from the epistemological framework provides a 'weak-strong' heuristic for the empirical investigation. The matrix and the heuristic drive the questions for the empirical investigation and the analysis of the evidence. The discourse in construction at business level and m the broader social context is also largely driven by the management paradigm. It appears that hegemonic elites have coalesced around this paradigm to control what constitutes the discourse of sustainable development. However, the prevailing narrative of 'management’, excluding a more dialectical discourse, is itself meeting contestation. It focuses on the economic and environmental imperatives of sustainable development, paying scant attention to the radical social agenda at the heart of the concept; and overlooks the institutional imperative of sustainable development. The inquiry reveals that this hegemonic appropriation is incomplete, and that emerging counter-hegemonic views are already challenging the dominant paradigm. The conclusion reached is that a more dialectical and inclusive discourse about sustainable development is required that opens the way for democratic participation. Some indications from the empirical research suggest that this might be driven through democratic social movements focusing on local sustainability and alternative means of production and consumption. An important role for business as a 'stakeholder' in this discourse calls for the replacement of asymmetric power by discursive democracy.