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Arctic Social Science and Public Policy

Policymakers and citizens alike look to the social sciences to explain social phenomena, to draw lessons from history about the resultant problems, and to develop policy options to come to terms with them. Social scientists in turn look to regions, such as the Arctic, as testing grounds for theories and as natural laboratories in which to evaluate innovative programs and policy responses. Thus, the Arctic may contribute to our understanding of such contemporary global issues as the collapse of the centrally planned economies of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the progressive degradation of ecosystems around the world, and the persistence of racism in many societies.

Three examples illustrate the links among current affairs, social science theory, and arctic research. Dramatic changes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have led social scientists to test and revise theories about the organization of production. Effective environmental management often requires evaluation of theories and policies concerning the control of human uses of nature and natural resources in such forms as fishing, hunting, and mining. Combating racism requires an understanding of the sources and value of cultural diversity.

The Arctic can play a special role in the development of these and other social science theories. Hunting and gathering peoples—called Eskimos in the outside world but known to themselves as Inuit, Inupiat, Yupik, and other names—have survived in the Arctic for centuries. Their isolated communities have experienced cultural change, but there is sufficient cul-



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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy 2 Arctic Social Science and Public Policy Policymakers and citizens alike look to the social sciences to explain social phenomena, to draw lessons from history about the resultant problems, and to develop policy options to come to terms with them. Social scientists in turn look to regions, such as the Arctic, as testing grounds for theories and as natural laboratories in which to evaluate innovative programs and policy responses. Thus, the Arctic may contribute to our understanding of such contemporary global issues as the collapse of the centrally planned economies of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the progressive degradation of ecosystems around the world, and the persistence of racism in many societies. Three examples illustrate the links among current affairs, social science theory, and arctic research. Dramatic changes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have led social scientists to test and revise theories about the organization of production. Effective environmental management often requires evaluation of theories and policies concerning the control of human uses of nature and natural resources in such forms as fishing, hunting, and mining. Combating racism requires an understanding of the sources and value of cultural diversity. The Arctic can play a special role in the development of these and other social science theories. Hunting and gathering peoples—called Eskimos in the outside world but known to themselves as Inuit, Inupiat, Yupik, and other names—have survived in the Arctic for centuries. Their isolated communities have experienced cultural change, but there is sufficient cul-

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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy tural continuity to test hypotheses about the relationships between human behavior and the environment, the organization of production, the maintenance of cultural diversity, and other topics. Government management of the land and water of the circumpolar North provides a laboratory in which to test theories about public policies pertaining to natural resources and the environment. THE ORGANIZATION OF PRODUCTION Throughout the twentieth century the production and distribution of goods and services have been dominated by debates over the relative merits of capitalism and socialism. There are, however, systems of economic action that are neither socialist nor capitalist and that may have something to teach us about the organization of production. The Arctic offers a rich array of economic arrangements that social scientists can use to test theories about outcomes arising from different structures of property rights. For example, indigenous economies feature systems of common property in which the use of natural resources on the part of individuals is subject to culturally defined rules. These rules govern the circumstances under which resources are available for use by individuals, the appropriate means of harvesting or making use of resources, and distribution of the proceeds of hunting and gathering (Usher and Bankes, 1986). Not only does the Arctic provide opportunities to look at foraging systems undergirded by common property arrangements in a relatively “pure” form, it offers instructive examples of mixed economies in which individuals can make choices among wage employment, subsistence activities, or some combination of the two. The term “subsistence” is shorthand for the work people do in hunting and gathering societies. Subsistence is a social practice that has cultural as well as economic significance and that has been viewed as a mode of production, a mode of consumption, and a mode of living (Sharif, 1986). Complex exchange relationships, which may or may not include an element of commercial trade, are common to all subsistence systems. Just as traditional Native societies are evolving to more closely resemble Western society, so too are the definitions and practices of subsistence activities in the everchanging legal and political contexts in which they occur. One of the impacts of Western contact with indigenous societies is the introduction of a cash economy, featuring wage employment and goods and services of the types produced in industrialized societies. Throughout the world, when the opportunity is presented, people exhibit an intense desire for goods and services produced by industrial processes. Mixed subsistence-based economies offer some combination of wage employment or

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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy other access to a cash economy and subsistence activities (Berger, 1977; Quigley and McBride, 1987; Wolfe and Walker, 1987). Until recently, social scientists regarded mixed economies as a transitional stage on the road from subsistence to a market economy. They assumed that social evolution would ultimately lead to an industrialized society characterized by private property and a market economy (Applebaum, 1984; Usher, 1981). However, studies of the Inupiat living on Alaska 's North Slope and other northern aboriginal groups have demonstrated that indigenous peoples who are most acculturated to Western society, as measured by education and employment in a wage economy, are at the same time more active than others who are participants in a subsistence economy (Kruse, 1982; Kruse et al., 1982). This has resulted in increasing doubts about a number of conventional ideas concerning the outcomes of economic development. Issues of productivity and motivation, central to the changes occurring in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, have also become prominent in the United States, where there is concern about U.S. competitiveness in world markets. Choice between subsistence and wage employment in a mixed economy provides a natural laboratory to test theories about motivations underlying choices of employment and leisure activities. These theories, developed in Western social settings, emphasize the distinction between direct production benefits (such as wages) and “process” benefits (such as social interaction) derived from participation in economic activities (Crandall, 1980; Driver and Burch, 1986; Herbert, 1987; Ingham, 1986; Juster and Courant, 1986; Pollnac and Poggie, 1988; Vroom, 1964). Subsistence research suggests that the distinction between production benefits and process benefits may not always be useful or relevant. Studies conducted in Alaska indicate that process benefits associated with subsistence activities make them more attractive to many individuals than available forms of wage employment. Process benefits that account for the attractiveness of subsistence activities, especially to Inupiat men include social interaction, personal challenge, opportunities for individual achievement, time spent away from village living, and reinforcement of cultural and religious values. Thus, subsistence studies in the Arctic suggest that there are situations in which it is useful to refrain from dichotomizing work and leisure. Instead, it may be more useful to measure the various production and process benefits derived from different activities to determine why an individual faced with several alternatives might be attracted to one activity over another. These are but a few examples of the role of the Arctic as a natural laboratory for testing theories about the organization of production. The Arctic may also contribute more specifically to an understanding of the dynamics of foraging societies located elsewhere in the world. While an

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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy estimated 4,000 publications have documented ethnographic details of arctic societies, the Arctic is just beginning to fulfill its potential in the international literature on foraging societies. Studies of the Arctic may enhance understanding of a variety of topics related to hunting and gathering, including social boundaries, the effect of climate change on the demography and social organization of foragers, population control, the relationship between social organization and population structure, band organization, the causes and effects of migration, social control, and intersocietal relations. PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT Concern is growing throughout the world about environmental disruptions arising from ozone depletion, global warming, acid rain, radioactive contaminants, solid waste disposal, depletion of renewable and nonrenewable resources, and destruction of habitats. During the 1970s, a metaphor known as the “tragedy of the commons” acquired a central role in efforts to devise solutions to these problems (Hardin, 1968). This metaphor suggests, in essence, that rational individuals will consistently overuse common property resources (like fish stocks, watersheds, or the atmosphere) because they expect the full benefits of their activities to accrue to themselves while assuming that many of the costs arising from these activities will be borne by others. Self-interested users of the commons, on this account, are also unlikely to save resources for future use because they have no way of preventing others from exploiting them in the meantime. This line of reasoning typically concludes that the tragedy of the commons can be avoided only by privatizing the resources or by introducing some system of government regulation to control uses of common property resources. Yet this paradigm has long been attacked from several directions. Privatization often gives rise to destructive side effects or externalities. Government regulation frequently benefits special-interest groups or contributes to the growth of stultifying bureaucracies. Neither constitutes a trouble-free response to the tragedy of the commons. Also, research on aboriginal societies has made it clear not only that common property arrangements do not necessarily lead to the destructive outcomes envisioned in the tragedy of the commons metaphor but also that preindustrial modes of economic organization can, under certain conditions, afford protection against destructive misallocation or overexploitation of subsistence resources. This has stimulated a renewal of interest in culturally defined rules and informal norms as mechanisms for controlling the behavior of individual users of common property resources (Berkes, 1989; McCay and Acheson, 1987; NRC, 1986; Ostrom, 1990). The Arctic offers a unique laboratory to study the alternative of gover-

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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy nance without government and other solutions to the problem of managing the commons. Among the many distinct indigenous cultures in the circumpolar North, ethnographic studies indicate that aboriginal peoples have succeeded under some circumstances but failed under others in efforts to devise and maintain systems that promote sustainable uses of natural resources while at the same time ensuring that the proceeds of their efforts are distributed to the members of the community in a socially desirable manner (Berkes, 1977, 1982, 1986; Burch, 1980; Feit, 1973; Fienup-Riordan, 1983; Nelson, 1969, 1973; Tanner, 1979). Accordingly, the Arctic provides opportunities to pinpoint conditions governing success or failure with respect to sustainable human uses of renewable resources. In modern times all the indigenous cultures of the Arctic have been impacted to a greater or lesser degree by Western social practices. This creates a range of opportunities to study the consequences of external impacts on aboriginal systems for protecting the environment together with the responses of indigenous peoples to these impacts. Studies of arctic and subarctic communities have figured prominently, for example, in the debate over the extent to which contact with Europeans may have subverted a culturally defined relationship between humans and animals that is thought by some scholars to have played an important role in controlling the environmental impacts of hunting and gathering in precontact indigenous systems (Feit, 1986; Krech, 1984; Martin, 1978). The Arctic is also the scene of a longstanding debate about the relative merits of two divergent systems of managing wildlife and other natural resources: the “state system,” with its emphasis on Western scientific knowledge and regulatory control mechanisms, and the “indigenous system,” with its reliance on aboriginal knowledge and informal or culturally defined rules (Usher, 1987). In the Arctic there is evidence both for and against the claims made on behalf of each system. Equally important for the purposes of this discussion is that neither system has triumphed over the other in the circumpolar North. Government officials ordinarily possess the legal authority to manage resources, but they seldom have the resources needed to implement the state system in the absence of voluntary compliance on the part of users. The users, by contrast, have a close relationship with the resources in question, which provides them with a good deal of observational or experiential knowledge, but they lack the authority to manage the resources on their own. Recently, this situation has led to a growing interest in “comanagement ” regimes (e.g., for bowhead whales, polar bears, migratory birds, various caribou herds) intended to expand opportunities for government officials and users to work together to manage wildlife and other resources cooperatively (Osherenko, 1988; Pinkerton, 1989). While it is premature to speak of success or failure, this movement does offer oppor-

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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy tunities for research on an important aspect of human/environmental relationships. More generally, governments have shown a growing interest in devising systems of restricted common property to control the human use of natural resources as an alternative to privatization or conventional command-and-control regulatory arrangements. Here, too, studies of arctic practices have contributed significantly to our understanding of the potential of restricted common property as contrasted with private ownership or public ownership of natural resources. Cases include analyses of limited-entry systems governing access to the marine fisheries (Adasiak, 1978; Koslow, 1986; Langdon, 1980; Morehouse and Rogers, 1982; Young, 1983), leasing systems establishing rights to develop offshore oil and gas deposits (Dryzek, 1983), and systems of preferential rights to consumptive uses of marine mammals (Langdon, 1989). Additionally, innovative responses to similar concerns arising at the international level in the Arctic have attracted the attention of students of international relations (Young, 1977). The international regime for the northern fur seal, originally formed in 1911, is regarded by many analysts as the first international arrangement to conserve wildlife (Bean, 1983). The more recent international arrangement for the protection of polar bears marked an important step in the transition from efforts to protect single species to the articulation of an ecosystem perspective. Analyses of restricted common property arrangements and imaginative mechanisms for management in the Arctic are now contributing to a broader understanding of the determinants of the formation of international regimes and the factors governing the effectiveness of such arrangements once they are put in place (Young and Osherenko, 1993). CULTURAL DIVERSITY Racism is a pervasive human phenomenon. One of the most significant contributions of anthropology is its role in combating racism through accurate information about physical and cultural differences among peoples and an understanding of the adaptations of different cultures to their distinctive environments. Since Franz Boas's ethnography of the Eskimos of central Canada, the Arctic has played an important part in demonstrating and documenting the relationships among culture, language, and environment (Boas, 1888). While the environmental movement has heightened our concern for the protection of biological diversity, society has devoted relatively little attention to the significance of protecting cultural diversity. From time to time, many countries, including the United States, have practiced policies of as-

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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy similation, denying minorities use of their languages, customs, and even religions. An understanding of the structure of different cultures may not only serve to combat racism but also add to the repertoire of human experience that can be brought to bear in efforts to solve a wide range of common problems. Aboriginal cultures of the circumpolar North survived for thousands of years in harsh environments subject to sharp and often unforeseen fluctuations in the availability of essential resources. The experiences of the peoples of the Arctic may offer insights of value to those responsible for solving contemporary problems, such as the need to achieve sustainable development in an era increasingly subject to competition for limited resources. The protection of cultural diversity requires a sophisticated understanding of the complexities of cultural continuity and change. It must not be thought of simply as a matter of reconstructing cultures of the past to remain unchanged as living museums. Rather, the remarkable ability of arctic cultures to adapt to changing circumstances must be understood and acknowledged. Further research may improve appreciation of the dynamics of living cultures in which individuals can alter their social practices in response to environmental changes without undermining their sense of belonging to an ongoing cultural community whose essential features remain intact. The modern history of the Arctic's indigenous cultures offers many opportunities to study the circumstances determining the degree of success this adaptation meets. As a result of the accelerated pace of social change in the Arctic, some traditional cultures of indigenous peoples are threatened with eradication by the regulations, technologies, and social practices of the now dominant Western culture. The intensity and pace of social change are factors affecting the disruption of traditional cultures. In some areas of the world where social change has occurred more slowly, indigenous cultures have more easily adapted to and blended with new social practices. Much of the social stress and maladaptation among arctic people may result from not incorporating traditional cultures into new Western ways. Conversely, lower levels of stress and maladaptive behavior are seen in areas where elements of the traditional culture have been retained and incorporated into newer institutions. Few matters are more central to the protection of cultural diversity than an improved understanding of the determinants of this unique blend of continuity and change that marks living cultures. Research on the effects of rapid social change on the health of indigenous peoples of the North may provide insights into similar effects on other indigenous peoples (Foggin and Aurillon, 1989; Thouez et al., 1989). Studies of northern peoples have found associations between higher educational achievement in Western institutions and psychosocial maladjustment (Phil-

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ARCTIC Contributions to, Social Science and Public Policy lips and Inui, 1986). Suicide rates are higher where education raises expectations that cannot be fulfilled within a limited economy (Travis, 1984). To better evaluate mental health impacts and provide more effective services, research is needed on traditional indigenous interpretations of the signs and symptoms of emotional disturbance (O'Nell, 1989). Social, economic, and cultural changes happen as a result of new technologies being introduced into daily life. For example, television was introduced relatively recently in the Arctic. This has given researchers an opportunity to test hypotheses about the effects of television on cognitive abilities, attitudes, and aspirations (Coldevin and Wilson, 1985; Lonner et al., 1985). Discrete events, such as the construction of military bases, mines, oil production facilities, pipelines, and railroads, can also change communities. Because these events are often controlled by public policies and public finances, they afford an opportunity to make deliberate decisions that affect outcomes. One important method that has arisen to meet this challenge is social impact assessment (SIA). Although SIA, like environmental impact assessment (EIA), is primarily an applied science intended to help policymakers choose among alternatives with some foresight regarding their probable consequences for people and their communities, it is properly understood as a process of hypothesis testing and, therefore, as a procedure that can contribute to the theoretical understanding of social change. Although SIA has developed in the Arctic and sub-Arctic in response to concerns about the impacts of industrial development in the form of discrete projects, it can also be used (subject to the usual trade-offs between scale and precision) to predict the human consequences of large changes in the natural environment or in the content of public policies, such as the effects of climate change or fundamental changes in policies governing access to or allocation of natural resources (Craig and Tester, 1982). In the cross-cultural setting of the North, SIA has advanced well beyond its origins in cost-benefit analysis, economic assessment, and social indicators research. Like EIA, however, it remains characterized by a lack of consensus about its content and methods and by uncertainty with respect to the understanding of cause-and-effect relationships needed as a basis for prediction. This is partly a problem of paradigm selection (Lang and Armour, 1981), which depends in turn on improved understanding and modeling of social phenomena, such as the dynamics of social change and cultural continuity (Usher and Weinstein, 1991). In part, improving the ability of SIA to verify its predictions will require enhanced postproject monitoring and evaluation. Because there are normally fewer extraneous factors, small arctic communities offer attractive opportunities for studies of this type.