Conflict, Controversy, Compromise, and Compression: The Pragmatics of Transdisciplinary (Development) Projects


  • Richard Bärnthaler Vienna University of Economics and Business



Development Research, Disagreement, Pluralism, Situated Judgments, Transdisciplinarity


Drawing upon qualitative interviews, this article narrates central controversies and conflicts that scholars working in the field of “development” face in their daily work. Based on how these conflicts and controversies have been reconstructed, I place them in the discourse on transdisciplinarity, drawing into question the claim to authority and novelty around the term “transdisciplinarity” that Western institutions have attributed themselves with in recent years. Finally, I turn to the question of collaboration: How can transdisciplinary projects deal with the fact of pluralism on the one hand and the necessity to work towards shared problem definitions, solutions, and strategies on the other? In this context, I make a case against transdisciplinarity’s often-held conceptions of harmony, comprehensiveness and total systems as well as unity and for compromise, partiality and joint contextual strategies. The “art of deliberation”, thus, replaces the notion of transcendence as a central competence of transdisciplinary scholars.

Author Biography

Richard Bärnthaler, Vienna University of Economics and Business

Richard Bärnthaler holds a research assistant prae-doc position at the Institute for Multi-Level Governance and Development, Vienna University of Economics and Business. His research interests include transdisciplinarity, urban studies, social-ecological transformation research and the philosophy of science (particularly the sociology of knowledge as well as relativism and pragmatism).


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