Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library

Partnerships: Machines of possibility

Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen
Copyright Date: 2008
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Everyone is talking about partnerships: environmental partnerships, social partnerships, public-private partnerships, partnerships between NGOs in Europe and the third world. How did partnerships come to emerge almost everywhere and at almost the same time? What is the inner logic of partnerships? And at what point does that logic begin to break down? In a highly complex society, the conditions on which agreements are built are constantly changing, demanding, first and foremost, that parties agree to reach an agreement. Partnering is an answer to the growing differentiation and dynamism of the societies in which we live. While this answer holds great potential, however, it is also very fragile. It is the aim of this book to improve our understanding of the shifting ground on which agreements must be reached in today's hyper-complex society.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-314-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Preface and acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    While ‘partnerships’ represent one of today’s buzzwords, they are more than just a buzzword — for example, they are able to unite the political Right and Left. And endorsing partnerships can also unite the public sector with voluntary organisations, voluntary organisations with private companies, and private companies with the public sector. Buzzwords often become such because they seem to unite a difference or a dilemma, but as a buzzword, ‘partnerships’ possesses this quality twofold. To the political Centre and the Left, partnerships overcome the dilemma between public shared responsibility and independent social criticism. Partnerships between the public sector and voluntary organisations...

  6. ONE Analytical strategy
    (pp. 7-30)

    As already indicated, partnerships represent a strange phenomenon; they relate to many different heterogeneous, and often even opposing, expectations. It is therefore not sufficient to interview just a few people who claim to be part of a partnership and to follow them over a period of time. It is also not enough to study a few partnership agreements and to draw conclusions based on them. Or to line up a number of variables and to conduct a partnership survey in order to see which variable responds under which circumstances. When dealing with partnerships, we have to ask: who is the...

  7. TWO Articulating partnerships
    (pp. 31-54)

    An initial path towards a diagnosis of the question of partnership was theconceptof partnership as it is used by organisations. This chapter looks at the kind of communication that occurs around partnerships. How do partnerships become possible as the effect of particular semantic articulations of partnerships? Thus, we begin with a semantic analysis of partnerships.

    In this chapter, therefore, partnership is observed as a particular semantics. Partnerships represent a semantics, that is, a reservoir of concepts that are currently available to an organisation for the description of and communication about interorganisational relations. An organisation observes itself, its environment...

  8. THREE Outsourcing limits
    (pp. 55-66)

    Having observed the way in which the partnership concept is made available to organisations’ internal communications about their interorganisational relations, the way that different systems of communication collide in the development of outsourcing and contracts across the public and private sector will now be discussed.

    The starting point is a distinction between organisational systems and function systems.

    Organisationsare defined as social systems that communicate through decisions. They are in a certain sense decision–making machines that create themselves through decisions and consist therefore of nothing but decisions and decision premises. Organisational systems are fundamentally exclusive; you are excluded from...

  9. FOUR Contracts and relationality
    (pp. 67-82)

    This chapter provides a shift in analytical perspective as well as point of observation. Having carried out a semantic analysis of the partnership concept and of the way in which it both opens and closes in a particular way the possibility for organisations to communicate about mutual relations, and having provided a case analysis of communication clashes across function systems in a public outsourcing project, this chapter now provides a semantic analysis of contract semantics in legal theory. Preliminary analysis indicates that the traditional contract is being put under pressure in cross-sectoral collaborations. Legal contract theory is included in this...

  10. FIVE Contracts as communication
    (pp. 83-96)

    The discursive openings from Macneil, Macaulay and Collins should be seen as fundamental rather than as a supplement to a dilapidated legal theory. First of all, contracts should be seen as a particular form of communication — communication is not an aspect of contract. Rather, contracts represent a particular way to communicate among other ways, with their own form and logic.

    Second, contracts cannot be presumed to be legalised exchanges. As Macaulay has already shown, contracts do not necessarily have to be legal, although this requires a systematic abolition of the law as a privileged point of observation for contracts.


  11. SIX Partnerships as second-order contracts
    (pp. 97-110)

    The concept of partnership is symptomatic of current new expectations that are put on contracts as form. As illustrated in the introduction to this book, a contract is put under pressure when it is set in the context of cross-sectoral collaboration, collectivity, agreements under developing conditions, project orientation and a focus on the future and visions. A contract is put under pressure when it is no longer perceived as functional in relation to conflict management, as we saw in the case of ISS Catering (pp 55–67). Moreover, a contract is put under pressure when it is seen as the...

  12. SEVEN Partnerships as tentative structural coupling
    (pp. 111-126)

    Partnerships have been discussed as a form of contract. Here, the studies are taken one step further and there is a discussion of whether the displacement of the form has consequences for a contract as a structural coupling between function systems. The argument is that partnerships not only presuppose the coupling of a greater number of function systems than traditional contracts, they also change the way in which couplings are established.

    As mentioned in Chapter Five, a contract does not represent an independent system of communication but a coupling between different systems of communication. A contract has to presuppose the...

  13. EIGHT Partnerships as second-order organisations
    (pp. 127-136)

    Up to this point partnerships have been studied in two different ways: as second-order contracts and as structural coupling. Subsequently we have explored what this means for the character of the partnership as structural coupling between different function systems, and concluded that there are significant differences in the potential of first-and secondorder contracts to establish structural couplings. In this chapter we explore the relation between contract and organisation in relation to partnerships, putting important constitutive conditions at stake. As it is, second-order contracts seem to be able to simultaneously function as a contract and as an organisation. Partnerships seem to...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 137-148)

    How are partnerships articulated? How specifically do partnerships operate communicatively? How are certain spaces of possibility opened up and put at stake in partnerships?

    How are partnerships articulated as interorganisational relations that cut across sectoral boundaries? This question was about the possibilities for communication that the concept of partnership opens up inside the individual organisational system for discussing and developing expectations of internal organisational issues. The analysis showed how a multiplicity of expectations became condensed into the concept of partnership. These included expectations about the partnership as an alternative to outsourcing, an alternative to sectoral break–ups, an alternative to...

  15. References
    (pp. 149-160)
  16. Index
    (pp. 161-165)