Moral practices of public affairs in transformative assemblages for the sustainable use of peatlands in the Baltic Sea Region

The proposed research project aims at in-depth insights on moral Public Affairs practices in socio-political decision making processes in the context of sustainability transformations.

Based on a longitudinal qualitative case study design it will be explored, which moral references occur in Public Affairs processes and how moral practices are justified, motivated and potentially restricted. Following insights that indicate that Public Affairs practitioners are often confronted with value conflicts, the research interest is focused on their reactions to contractions and on how moral instances and competencies, likepersonal values, codes of ethics, ethical principles, care for others, ombudspersons or role models, get involved in such reactions.

Results can not only advance research on Public Affairs ethics, but can also contribute to the development of measures for regulation, education and training within the profession. Particularly in the context of sustainability transformations, that are strongly influenced by Public Affairs, societies around the world could profit from more detailed knowledge on when and why moral aspects are considered in Public Affairs or merely neglected.

The methodological approach follows DeLanda’s philosophical assemblage theory which has barely been applied to Public Affairs and organizational communication. Assemblage theory can complement network approaches to organizations as it also comprises material dimensions of social interactions. It is particularly applicable to the analysis of moral practices in sustainability transformations because it considers virtual capacities of action, so called spaces of possibilities, as an important influence on social assemblages. By comparing realized and nonrealized possibilities it allows for an in-depth analysis of reasons and motives behind moral practices.

To facilitate a dense and close analysis of the interplay between material and expressive elements within Public Affairs processes the proposal relies on an open, incremental methodological design. It combines qualitative interviews with narrative and ethnological elements with document analyses. Persons who are involved in Public Affairs processes will be interviewed at least twice, so that temporal dynamics become visible and reasons for non-realized possibilities can be reflected. Case selection in the field of sustainability transformations is directed towards transformative practices for sustainable usage of wetlands because this specific social assemblage can be analyzed in a holistic manner.