The significance of structural power in Strategic Environmental Assessment

Anne Merrild Hansen, Lone Kørnøv, Matthew Asa Cashmore, Tim Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents a study of how power dynamics enables and constrains the influence of actors upon decision-making and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Based on Anthony Giddens structuration theory (ST), a model for studying power dynamics in strategic decision-making processes is developed and used to explore how reflexive agents bring about change. The model is used to map and analyse key decision arenas in the decision process of aluminium production in Greenland. The analysis shows that communication lines are an important resource through which actors exercise power and influence decision-making on the location of the aluminium production. The SEA process involved not only reproduction of formal communication and decision competence but also production of alternative informal communication structures in which the SEA had capability to influence. It is concluded, that actors influence both outcome and frames for strategic decision making and attention needs to be on not only the formal interactions between SEA process and strategic decision-making process but also on informal interaction and communication between actors. The informal structures shows crucial to the outcome of the decision-making process.
The article is meant as a supplement to the understanding of power dynamics influence in IA processes emphasising the capacity of agents to mobilise and create change. Despite epistemological challenges of using ST theory as an approach to power analysis, this meta theory is found to provide an interesting and wider lens through which to view and analyse power dynamics in strategic decision-making. The article ends by considering possibilities for future research and practice within the IA field.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Pages (from-to)37-45
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

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