Resisting the discourse of modernity: Rationality versus emotion in hazardous waste siting

Stephanie A. Welcomer, Dennis A. Gioia, Martin Kilduff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


One community's resistance to the projected siting of a hazardous waste facility provides a case study of clashing discourse between modernity's champions and its sceptics. The events and outcomes of this case raise questions about the widespread assumption that science, reason and rationality are necessarily the bases for good decisions in society. This study highlights the contemporary citizen, deeply sceptical of the rational state and modern business practice, and fearful that personal and communal identity will be threatened by forces over which local residents have no control. In this case, site developers and community members engaged in numerous rhetorical exchanges. The developers conducted their side of the discourse according to the tenets of reason and rationality. The community, however, imposed emotional interpretations on the situation, thus radically undermining the possibilities of communicative rationality and challenging the tacit 'rules' of modern discourse. The public debate between the protagonists revealed emergent themes of identity disruption, mistrust and polarization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1175-1205
Number of pages31
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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