In the NIMBY perspective, citizens are portrayed as overly emotional, uninformed and unscientific in their opposition, motivated by narrow, selfish interests, and obstructive of policies that would provide for the collective good (McAvoy, 1998). Proponents of this view see policy-making as ‘corrupted by self-interested or irrational citizens who abuse the democratic process and lead policy-makers away from optimal solutions to social problems’ (McAvoy, 1998: 274). Consequently, they argue that collective reliance on bureaucratic decision-making, guided by policy experts can produce better results than ‘continuing to suffer under a democratic process that leaves us at the mercy of uninformed citizens’ (McAvoy, 1998: 274).
In contrast to this view, democracy analysts such as Robert Dahl (1989) and Charles Lindblom (1990) reject both the idea that citizens are unsophisticated and myopic in their policy preferences, and the view that policy experts are neutral with respect to their choices. Policy experts in fact, fail to recognise the implicit value choices that are embedded in technical decision-making, and are ill-equipped to appreciate the importance of assessing uncertainties and trade-offs in making policy judgements. In such cases, ‘partisan probing’ (Lindblom, 1990) – the consideration of multiple and particular perspectives – is recommended, rather than insulated decision-making. From this perspective, incidences of Nimbyism represent essential articulations of citizens’ concerns for more effective decision-making and conflict resolution.
McAvoy, G. (1998) Partisan probing and democratic decision-making: rethinking the NIMBY syndrome, Policy Studies Journal, 26 (2) 274-292.
Dahl, R. (1989) Democracy and its Critics, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press .
Lindblom, C. (1990) Inquiry and Change: The Troubled Attempt to Understand and Shape Society, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press .
For further reading:
Boholm, Å. 2004. Editorial: What are the new perspectives on siting controversy? Journal of Risk Research, 7 (2): 99-100.
Brion, D. (1991) Essential industry and the NIMBY phenomenon. Quorum Books, New York.
Burningham, K. (2000) Using the language of NIMBY: a topic for research, not an activity for researchers, Local Environment, 5 (1) 55-67.
Dear, M. (1992) Understanding and overcoming the NIMBY syndrome. Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 58.
Kraft, ME. & Clary BB (1991) Citizen Participation and the Nimby Syndrome: Public Response to Radioactive Waste Disposal. The Western Political Quarterly, 44 (2) 299-328, University of Utah, Western Political Science Association.
Wolsink, M. (2000) Wind power and the NIMBY-myth: institutional capacity and the limited significance of public support. Renewable energy, 21 (1) 49-64.
This glossary entry is based on a contribution by Tom Bauler
EJOLT glossary editors: Hali Healy, Sylvia Lorek and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos