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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Contesting modernism : communities and the pacific salmon revitalization plan Robertson, Stephen

Abstract

This thesis explores the role for social work in addressing government policies that threaten the sustainability of small coastal communities. The response of government and industry to the globalization of trade and resource degradation is at odds with the needs of people. Utilizing a case study methodology the development and implementation of the Pacific Salmon Revitalization Plan is explored. This department of fisheries plan to rationalize the fishery was highly contested on the grounds that it took jobs out of small coastal communities. It was accused of benefiting the large fishing corporations and the urban based fishing fleet, which had the capital to profit from the plan. Concentrated opposition from coastal communities, fishers, advocacy groups and academics was unsuccessful in changing the plan. The assumptions of modernism - expert knowledge, scientific rationality and orthodox economics - as well as distorted communications, were postulated to be behind this lack of success. A post modern analysis suggests that a successful challenge to the plan would have incorporated the local knowledge of fishers and coastal communities within a process of fair and equitable public discourse aimed at reaching intersubjectively mediated understanding. For social work this demonstrates the need to work conjointly with communities and affected groups to identify the modernist assumptions on which policy decisions are based and develop locally derived alternatives to these assumptions. And most importantly, that the focus of social change efforts be on demanding a process for discussion and decision-making that ensures that the concerns of effected individuals will be fairly addressed.

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