Two tension fields

An issue that is common to both international relations theory and various approaches to understanding the nexus of power and knowledge is the relationship between structure and agency. This debate concerns the extent to which various actors shape a situation or if their actions are determined by a context or structure.91 For example, scholars using the regime concept tend to focus either on the various actors and their preferences, or the common structures that guide their behavior. Within the literature on the relationship between power and knowledge, discourse-inspired analyses focus mainly on structure, especially the structure of language, in determining our thinking and thus our understanding of the world. The actors that participate in creating a discourse tend to become hidden from view.92 Since international relations scholars started to look at the role of knowledge in the environmental governance, there has been a shift in academic interest from focusing on epistemic communities as agents of policy change to epistems or discourses.93 As a contrast to a structural focus, actor-network theory pays specific attention to the actors, their actions, and how different actors can gather power but does not highlight the power structures within which they act. There is no simple solution to the apparent contradiction between focusing on structure or agency other than to acknowledge that both approaches should be kept in mind throughout the analysis.94 One can also see the structure-agency dichotomy as part of a larger war of paradigms within social science, where one school of thought places the focus on the epistemological significance of individual agents and their choices whereas the other focuses on the structures that define the positions, roles, and identities of the individual agents.95

I want to retain foci on both structure and agency, leaving it open to empirically investigate the tensions between them. In what situations do the structures of international cooperation, for example international regimes, play a role in shaping the framing of Arctic climate change? What other structures in international society may be important, including historic East-West tensions and core-periphery relations? And as counterpoint: in what situations do actions of specific states or non-state actors have a major influence on events? And combining the two analytical perspectives: To what extent are actors constrained or not constrained by specific regimes or other structures? Do the dynamics differ depending on the issue in focus?

The second tension is between political order and knowledge production, or policy and science. As identified by the concept of co-production, they are closely interlinked. Yet, many actors want to keep them separate. At other times, policy and science are brought closer together, often in an attempt to make policy makers aware of a scientific view of a specific problem or to use science to legitimize policy actions. It is a tension

91 Definition adapted from McAnulla, "Structure and Agency," 271.

92 Marianne Winther Jergensen, "Den diskursive distribution af structur og agens. En analyse af human-vetenskabelige subjektpositioner," Dansk Sociologi 14, no. 1 (2003): 71.

93 Peter M. Haas, "Do Regimes Matter? Epistemic Communities and Mediterrenean Pollution Control," International Organization 43, no. 3 (1989): 377; Haas, "Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination"; Litfin, Ozone Discourses; B├Ąckstrand, What Can Nature Withstand?, 257.

94 McAnulla, "Structure and Agency," 273.

95 Rudra Sil, "The Foundations of Eclectisism. The Epistemological Status of Agency, Culture, and Structure in Social Theory," Journal of Theoretical Politics 12, no. 3 (2000): 353, 354.

that could be described as a tango by two unwilling partners: they are interlinked but still have to assert their independence in various kinds of boundary work. While recognizing their interdependence, I argue that there are advantages to keeping them analytically separate. A key point is that this creates a window where their interactions form an empirical question that can potentially illuminate the dynamics of co-production of science and policy. What are the factors that influence when and how science has an impact on policy choices? What factors play a role for politics driving knowledge production?

These two tensions are not independent of each other. For example, both regime structure and the actions of specific actors can affect the relationship between knowledge production and political order. I therefore suggest placing both of them in the same analytical framework. The following figure is an attempt to capture such a framework in a simple graphical form.

Figure 1.1. The analytical framework highlights the interactions between political order and knowledge production and how this intersects with analytical tensions between structure and agency. Structures refer to the contexts that define the range of actions available to various actors. It includes regimes but also more basic structures of international society, such as East-West and core-periphery relations. Actors include individuals as well as collectives, such as states and organizations. It also includes non-human entities that influence their environments through networks of connections. The relationships between the different parts of the framework are likely to vary depending on the situation that is being analyzed.

Figure 1.1. The analytical framework highlights the interactions between political order and knowledge production and how this intersects with analytical tensions between structure and agency. Structures refer to the contexts that define the range of actions available to various actors. It includes regimes but also more basic structures of international society, such as East-West and core-periphery relations. Actors include individuals as well as collectives, such as states and organizations. It also includes non-human entities that influence their environments through networks of connections. The relationships between the different parts of the framework are likely to vary depending on the situation that is being analyzed.

Empirically, this dissertation analyzes different types and sources of knowledge integrated into the ACIA and why they are integrated. A major question is how different framings of Arctic climate change relate to structures of international cooperation, e.g. regimes. The analytical framework presented here allows me to do this analysis without losing sight of the tension between structure and agency, i.e. between regimes and other structures of international society on one side and various actors on the other. Moreover, it creates an analytical window for looking at structure-agency interdependent interactions within the tension between policy and knowledge production.

As a complement to the overall framework, there is a need to define more specifically the analytical tools used to understand the history, process, and content of the ACIA. Based on the literature on environmental governance, two sets of analytical concepts appear specifically appropriate for this study. The first one borrows from the literature of scientific assessments and their influence on policy and the second from the literature on institutional dimension of environmental change.

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