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«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»

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2. How can worldviews and their interface with goals and issues of sustainable development be empirically investigated? (See chapter 3)

a) How have worldviews been explored in the past, in the context of goals and issues of sustainable development?

b) What are the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches?

c) What would be a more optimal approach to exploring worldviews in the context of goals and issues of sustainable development?

3. Which worldviews currently exist in the Netherlands, and how do they interface with goals and issues of sustainable development? (See chapter 4)

a) Which worldviews currently exist in the Netherlands?

b) Are there significant differences between these worldviews and their interface with environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles?

c) Are there worldviews that appear to have significant potential for sustainable development (e.g. in terms of environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles)?


4. What are the general contours of the emerging, ‘integrative’ worldview, which appears to have particular potential for sustainable development?

(See chapter 5 - 7)

a) What is the specific potential of nature experience and nature spirituality (which are associated with this worldview) for sustainable development? (See chapter 5)

b) What are the potentials and pitfalls of the culture of contemporary spirituality (which is associated with this worldview) for sustainable development? (See chapter 6)

c) What is the deeper logic and inner experience of the integrative worldview and its positive relationship to sustainable development?

(See chapter 7)

d) How are the premises of this worldview translated to a ‘sustainable social imaginary’? (See chapter 7)

5. How can the gathered insights into worldviews be applied to policy and practice for goals and issues of sustainable development? (See chapter 8)

a) How can insights into worldviews be applied to policymaking for goals and issues of sustainable development?

b) How can insights into worldviews be applied to communication for goals and issues of sustainable development?

1.5 An integrative, mixed methods approach In line with the interdisciplinary nature of my research questions and my research worldview as described above, I have chosen for an integrative, mixed methods approach. I will first concisely discuss the history and philosophy of mixed methods as a new research worldview, in order to clarify what this approach entails and why and how it is apt in the context of my objectives. Then I will discuss my chosen design more specifically.

1.5.1 A concise history of mixed methods as new research worldview As argued by multiple advocates of mixed methods research (see e.g. Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998), the emergence and evolution of 42 this more integrated way of understanding and approaching research can be understood as a response to the paradigm wars that broke out in the 1970’s between the (post)positivists and the social constructivists in the social and behavioral sciences. The paradigm wars refer to a heated debate and sharp competition between two dominant ‘research worldviews’ or belief systems that guide researchers in their conceptualization, design, conduction, analysis, and interpretation of research (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; R. B. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). While the (post)positivist paradigm tends to underlie the quantitative methods, the social constructivist paradigm is often associated with the qualitative methods. Whereas (post)positivists tend to assume a single reality, the independence of subject and object (or knower and known), and the possibility of value-free inquiry, the social constructivists, in contrast, argue for the existence of multiple, socially constructed realities, the inseparability of subject and object, and the value-bound nature of inquiry. Moreover, while (post)positivists emphasize cause-and-effect relations and deductive logic, social constructivists seek in-depth understanding and generally emphasize induction or grounded theory (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998).

Indeed, these two dominant research paradigms have resulted in two research cultures, “one professing the superiority of ‘deep, rich observational

data’ and the other the virtues of ‘hard, generalizable’ … data” (Sieber, 1973, in:

R. B. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004, p. 14). However, despite these different and in many ways opposing understandings of reality and research, from the 1960’s and more commonly the 1990’s onward, an approach to research started to emerge combining both of these paradigms and understanding them to be compatible and mutually enhancing rather than mutually exclusive: this approach is generally referred to as mixed methods research. Such an approach appears to be particularly relevant for addressing our contemporary sustainability-issues.24 Such an integrative approach to research thus rejects the 24 As Hedlund (2010) argues, our “planetary problems are multifaceted, interwoven gestalts—thus demanding the coordination and integration of multiple disciplinary and methodological perspectives in order to generate effective solutions that account for their myriad dimensions. And yet a tremendous gap between the current capacity of our dominant traditions of inquiry and knowledge acquisition and the demands of our planetary problems remains: in very general terms, the methodological purview of our traditions of knowledge acquisition is either insufficiently inclusive (modern scientism/methodological monism) or 43 forced choice between (post)positivism and constructivism with regards to method, logic, and epistemology, and in fact embraces the essence of both points of view (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Esbjörn-Hargens, 2006; R. B. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). That is, both quantitative and qualitative methods are considered important and useful, and generally a broader (methodologically and epistemologically) pluralistic, inclusive, and integrative approach is promoted. Mixed methods—also understood as ‘the third research paradigm’—may therefore help to bridge the schism between the quantitative and qualitative research paradigms (R. B. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004).

Philosophically, mixed methods is most often associated with pragmatism, a philosophical approach that argues that the current meaning, instrumental, or provisional truth value of an expression is to be determined by the experiences of the practical consequences of the belief in or use of the expression in the world (see e.g. Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). This approach has many features in common with my research worldview as described above, inspired by, among others, critical realism, which also has been described as ‘a third way’ aspiring to synthesize the best of both (post)positivism and social constructivism (see e.g. Alvesson & Sköldberg, 2009). Like critical realism, pragmatism views knowledge as both constructed and based on the reality of the world we experience and live in. It aims to find a middle ground between philosophical dogmatisms and skepticism, and rejects traditional dualisms such as rationalism versus empiricism, facts versus values, and subjectivism versus objectivism. It endorses eclecticism and pluralism (and sees for example different and conflicting perspectives and theories as potentially useful), and aspires practical theory—that is, theory that informs effective practice. While it takes an explicitly value-oriented approach to research, it simultaneously argues that those values should be derived from shared, cultural values such as democracy, freedom, and equality, rather than reflecting a insufficiently integrated (postmodernism relativism/methodological pluralism). As a result, they appear to be largely inadequate in fostering a coherent coordination and integration across disciplinary and methodological boundaries, and thus in addressing our most vital global challenges in any substantive sense” (pp. 1-2). He goes on to discuss a systematic approach to conducting mixed methods research, grounded in integral theory, known as ‘integral research.’ 44 researcher’s highly idiosyncratic opinions (R. B. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004).

In the mixed method approach the concept of triangulation—that is, the use of multiple methods or perspectives to illuminate a certain phenomenon—is central, because the understanding is that every method has its limitations and discloses certain aspects of a larger, more complex, multifaceted, and multidimensional reality. Thus, precisely through the combination and integration of multiple methods a closer approximation of reality becomes possible (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Through triangulation, research results gathered with different methods can converge, thereby increasing the validity of the research. At the same time, triangulation can generate complementary insights, as diverse methods may disclose different aspects of the same complex and multidimensional reality. While mixed methods sometimes tends to be seen as relevant to methods only, a mixed models design refers to combining both paradigms not only in the data generation and collection phases, but also in other phases of the research process, such as the framing of the research problem, conceptualization and theory construction, data analysis and interpretation, inference and application (R. B. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). According to several authors, such an approach, which is integrative at all phases of the research process, is the growing trend in the social and behavioral sciences (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Esbjörn-Hargens, 2006; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Moreover, according to some authors, an evolution in the social and behavioral sciences can be observed, from the use of monomethods to the use of mixed model-studies (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). See table 1 for an overview of the different research worldviews, and their implications for research.

1.5.2 A mixed models design In this dissertation, I use such a mixed models-design (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). As such, I generate and analyze data quantitatively at the collective level in my representative survey in the Netherlands (chapter four), and then qualitatively at the individual level in my in-depth interviews (chapters five and seven). This study uses three different forms of triangulation: data triangulation (combining different sources of data; e.g. representative individuals in the Netherlands, selected individuals in North-America and the Netherlands), theory 45 triangulation (combining different theoretical perspectives, e.g. environmental psychology, history of ideas, revised modernization theory), and methodological triangulation (combining quantitative survey-research with qualitative interviewresearch).

–  –  –

1.6 Reading guide and outline After having introduced the research in this chapter, the next chapter traces the concept of worldview in the history of philosophy, by discussing the thinking on this concept of a range of extraordinarily influential philosophers—from Plato, 46 to Kant, Goethe, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, to several contemporary philosophers and philosophical currents. On the basis of this inquiry, the concept of worldview is defined and the foundations for the IWF are expounded. The IWF facilitates the operationalization of the concept of worldview into five distinct, though interrelated, empirically researchable aspects: ontology, epistemology, axiology, anthropology, and societal vision (or social imaginary).

Chapter three reviews existing approaches that empirically explore (aspects of) worldviews and their relationship to environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles. I start with analyzing multiple survey-approaches stemming from different disciplinary and theoretical traditions, including widely used scales such as the New Environmental Paradigm. This results in a metaanalysis of their strengths and weaknesses. By arguing that the IWF is able to address the observed shortcomings, this chapter lays the foundation for an innovative conceptual and methodological approach to investigating worldviews in the context of goals and issues of sustainable development.

Chapter four is the first empirical chapter of this dissertation. With assistance of the IWF, a survey exploring worldviews, environmental attitudes, and sustainable lifestyles is developed and conducted in the Netherlands (n=1053). The statistical results generate three main clusters of worldviews, which potentially point at the existence of a more traditional worldview in Dutch society (labeled ‘Traditional God’), a more modern worldview (labeled ‘Focus on money’ and ‘Secular materialism’), and a more postmodern worldview (labeled ‘Inner growth’ and ‘Contemporary spirituality’). Next to distinguishing them, these clusters were also found to have (statistically) significantly different tendencies in terms of environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles. This study thereby provides a preliminary overview of potentially important worldviews in the context of goals and issues of sustainable development, in a contemporary Western society such as the Netherlands.

Building forth on the findings of chapter four—which indicated that an orientation towards inner growth and contemporary spirituality tend to be related with pro-environmental attitudes (notably connectedness with nature) and more sustainable lifestyles—in chapters five, six, and seven I zoom in, both theoretically and ethnographically, on worldviews with a particular potential for 47 sustainable development. Chapter five reports a qualitative exploration of the spiritual dimension of nature experience as described in interviews with naturelovers/environmentalists and spiritual practitioners in Victoria, Canada. The results give an insiders-perspective into contemporary nature spirituality, inviting the reader to explore and appreciate it from within. The research illuminates three potential pathways to a sense of environmental responsibility.

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