The Cleavable Matter: Discursive Orders in Swedish Nuclear Power Policy 1972-­1980

Per Lindquist

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This study applies a qualitative discourse theoretical method to analyse the central argumentation in the parliamentary debate on nuclear power in Sweden during 1972­1980, reconstructed from official documents such as governmental and parliamentary bills, committee reports, parliamentary debate protocols, and official commission reports.

Particular concern is directed to the process in which various discursive orders emerging within the political debate tend to have a structuring influence on the political argumentation regarding what can be said, by whom this can be said, and how this can be said. It is argued that these discursive orders have a profound, and in a systems theoretical sense self-dynamic influence, going beyond the original intentions of the political actors, on how the energy policy issue is interpreted and constructed. It is argued, furthermore, that these discursive orders actively exploit the political context of meaning by deliberately instrumentalising and incorporating competing argumentative elements into their own cognitive structure. In other words, the dominant political system incorporates the arguments of the political opposition and of the environmental and anti-nuclear movements in order to consolidate its political power. The discourse theoretical analysis of the Swedish nuclear power debate in that sense unveils a deep resistance against a true political discourse, in the sense of Habermas, as a rational and domination-free process of reaching mutual understanding.
Translated title of the contributionThe Cleavable Matter: Discursive Orders in Swedish Nuclear Power Policy 1972-­1980
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Sociology
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1997 Oct 10
Print ISBNs91-89078-11-X
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 1997-10-10
Time: 10:10
Place: Palaestra, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Gundelach, Peter
Title: Professor
Affiliation: University of Copenhagen

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • systems theory
  • social movements
  • risk
  • power
  • nuclear power
  • knowledge production
  • environmental policy
  • energy policy
  • discourse
  • communicative action
  • autopoiesis
  • communication
  • Sociology


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