Bridging the “consent gap”. Mechanisms of legitimization in a cross-border megaproject

Bridging the “consent gap”. Mechanisms of legitimization in a cross-border megaproject
Silvia Lucciarini, Rossana Galdini
Policy & Society, 2023
In the recent debate on megaprojects, greater attention is devoted to the functioning of the inter-organisational and multi-actor networks that are one of the most innovative features of recent years. The complexity of these structures brings out governability issues for a megaproject’s management. Mutual recognition and consent become elements capable of inaugurating more collaborative processes and practices to reduce organisational and management criticalities in megaprojects. This paper focuses on a neglected relational dimension, namely legitimacy. We argue that legitimacy is instead the central dimension that attributes effectiveness and capacity for action to the organisations involved. Legitimacy regulates the relationship between various organisations – and especially – between organisations and the public sphere. Institutionalist theory assigns a central role to legitimacy in the construction of social processes, defining it as a generalised form of social acceptance towards an actor, an idea or a project. In this paper, we hypothesise that the legitimacy attributed and “held” by the stakeholders is a crucial element in countering three critical aspects of megaprojects, namely the uncertainty, complexity and conflict acting on the construction of public consensus and the quality of relations between the participating stakeholders. We verify our hypothesis by analysing a cross-border megaproject, the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link between Germany and Denmark. The paper concentrates on the mechanisms with which stakeholders can acquire legitimacy using the Eriksen discursive legitimation scheme. These mechanisms are different (evidence-based, public participation, and legislators’ command) and produce different outcomes in terms of increasing or containing these three criticalities.

Editor’s note: This is an Italian language publication.

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