DILC Phase 3 Political debates, controversies and defensive hedging

Problem-related pressures:

(1) The emergence of social move-ment organizations (SMOs) is an important dynamic in the secondphase. SMOs engage in resource mobilization, the articulation ofappealing frames and discourses, and public protest activities,which strengthen the urgency of demands and increase mediaattention. “The emergence of interest groups represents a signif-icant stage in the lifecycle of an issue and can determine whether itwill die a quiet death or will be catapulted into public awareness”(Greening and Gray, 1994: p. 476). SMO activities (demonstrations,protests, petitions) also add ‘drama’ to the issue, which increasespublic attention.

(2) Public attention may also rise because of newfindings, media reports or shocks that act as ‘trigger events’: “Mediaplay a major role in assigning importance to issues and expos-ing gaps between business practices and society’s expectations”(Greening and Gray, 1994: p. 475).

(3) In response to rising public attention policymakers may engage in symbolic action, e.g. express concerns, organize conferences or create committees to investigate the problem.

Industry responses:

(1) Firms-in-industries begin to defend themselves against criticisms when media and public attention affect their ‘secondary involvement arena’. They are likely to engagein symbolic action, which “involves attempts to ‘frame’ an issue”(Mahon and Waddock, 1992: p. 27). They may use “de-dramatizing strategies” (Hilgartner and Bosk, 1988: p. 62) such as denying the existence of the problem, asserting that other matters are more urgent, highlighting uncertainties in the causality of the problem,dismissing the opposing camp as uninformed or irrational, suggesting that the situation or condition is natural, acceptable, or inevitable.

(2) Firms may also form a ‘closed industry front’ and create associations to protect collective interests of an entire industry(Fligstein and McAdam, 2012). (3) When further denial of prob-lems damages their credibility, industry actors may accept theexistence of a problem and allocate some R&D resources towardsincremental innovations that stay within the bounds of the existingregime. Firms may also use these innovation strategies for political purposes, arguing that regulations are not needed because they are already working on solutions.

(4) In response to rising pub-lic concerns, relative outsiders (new entrants, fringe actors, firmsdiversifying from other sectors, entrepreneurs) may start exploring radical technical alternatives.

Geels and Penna, 2015: 71

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