Based on Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action, this paper critiques the transparency and legitimacy of participatory scenario planning, considering a case study of scenario development for the livestock industry within Scotland. The paper considers the extent to which the case study approximates the conditions for ‘ideal speech situations’ and how these conditions could be applied more widely in participatory scenario planning. The authors explore the rationale for participatory scenario planning within the science–policy interface with critical reference to the corporate context in which scenario planning has evolved. The aim is to optimise the potential for its use in the context of socio-technical and environmental governance. Researcher co-reflections on the case study are mapped within a matrix of indices representing conditions for ideal speech situations. Further analytical categories highlight the extent to which ideal speech was approximated. Although many of the constraints on achieving ideal speech situations reflect intransigent, practical logistics of organising participatory exercises, our novel approach enables the systematic identification of some important issues and provides a conceptual framework for understanding how they interrelate that may prove useful to practitioners and theorists alike.
- Communicative action
- Ideal speech
- Participatory scenario planning