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Challenging governance theory

Challenging governance theory: From networks to hegemony

Jonathan S. Davies
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  • Book Info
    Challenging governance theory
    Book Description:

    Theories heralding the rise of network governance have dominated for a generation. Yet, empirical research suggests that claims for the transformative potential of networks are exaggerated. This topical and timely book takes a critical look at contemporary governance theory, elaborating a Gramscian alternative. It argues that, although the ideology of networks has been a vital element in the neoliberal hegemonic project, there are major structural impediments to accomplishing it. While networking remains important, the hierarchical and coercive state is vital for the maintenance of social order and integral to the institutions of contemporary governance. Reconsidering it from Marxist and Gramscian perspectives, the book argues that the hegemonic ideology of networks is utopian and rejects the claim that there has been a transformation from 'government' to 'governance'. This important book has international appeal and will be essential reading for scholars and students of governance, public policy, human geography, public management, social policy and sociology.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-616-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Jonathan S. Davies
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    For a generation, scholars, politicians, officials, activists and public intellectuals have celebrated the transformative potential of networks across government, economy and society. The network is the leitmotif of postmodernist social science, encompassing everything from radical anti-foundationalism to neo-Marxism and everyday theories of governance, public administration and public policy. Network analysis is applied to a vast range of social phenomena, inter alia to describe, model, analyse, explain and justify them. From the radical left to the libertarian right, scholars celebrate networks alongside their antagonists in mainstream public administration and policy. International corporate elites depict themselves and their companies as networked and...

  3. ONE The network governance milieu
    (pp. 9-30)

    Chapter One begins by exploring core ideas in network governance theory understood as the ‘orthodoxy’. It then discusses the variety of approaches that espouse post-traditional ideas about changing forms of governance. The second part of the chapter explores the intellectual roots of post-traditional thinking through the lens of the theory of reflexive modernisation, perhaps the most influential social-theoretical current in contemporary public policy. The chapter concludes by considering the influence of post-traditional thought on contemporary Marxism. It therefore demonstrates how the network is celebrated across a wide spectrum of mainstream and critical theory. Chapter Two then charts the rise of...

  4. TWO Network governance policy
    (pp. 31-54)

    This chapter begins by briefly exploring the relationship between academic theory and public policy. It then explains how network governance became the orthodoxy in global public policy. It thirdly explores a paradigm case, the UK, and the socioeconomic conditions and ideas that made building governance networks a cardinal governing principle under New Labour. In doing so, it highlights the political claims for network governance subjected to critique in Chapter Three. The chapter concludes that in contrast with ideologues in the theoretical and political domains, even sympathetic empirical researchers rarely offer unqualified support to the network governance project.

    To what extent...

  5. THREE The limits of network governance
    (pp. 55-74)

    Chapter Two suggested that there is little direct empirical evidence pointing to the emergence of authentic connectionist practices. On the contrary, much of the literature highlights barriers to this outcome. This chapter explores key themes in the critical literatures, highlighting the empirical basis for a critique of network governance theory: that it misreads both past and present, that governance networks are prone to resolving into hierarchies and incremental closure, that they reproduce inequalities, and that distrust is common. Consequently, there is a pronounced tendency for governance networks to re-enact the practices they are meant to complement or displace. The final...

  6. FOUR Beyond the transformation thesis
    (pp. 75-100)

    This chapter takes a detour from the core subject matter of governance theory. It argues that to understand why authentic network governance does not seem to be emerging we need first to challenge underlying assumptions encapsulated in the idea that we are moving from the logic of structures to the logic of flows. The chapter argues that, on the contrary, there are powerful historical continuities in the social structure that make network governance highly improbable. The discussion draws on Marxist social theory and political economy, marginalised by mainstream governance, public policy and political science scholarship for decades (Hay, 2010, p...

  7. FIVE From network governance to hegemony
    (pp. 101-124)

    To recap, Chapter Three argued that actual-existing governance networks appear dysfunctional from the standpoint of post-traditional governance theory, tending to replicate practices they were meant to surpass. Chapter Four argued that the basis for explaining this puzzle is that the social, political and economic conditions for widespread and sustainable network governance do not exist. If so, the phenomenon of governance networks must be explained in terms other than those of network governance theory. Chapter Five develops a Gramscian account, grounded in Marxist political economy. It argues that the promotion of governance networks can fruitfully be understood as a dimension of...

  8. SIX Gramscian governance research
    (pp. 125-150)

    As was suggested in Chapter Five, a key challenge for research influenced by Marxism is to move between the domains of theory, empirical inquiry and struggle. The first part of this chapter develops a research framework drawing on the tradition of ‘dialectical network analysis’ (Benson, 1977; Marsh and Smith, 2000). The chapter then explores the challenges of critical inquiry in the governance field, focusing on three issues: the case for seeing research as a critical intervention in public discourse, the choices at stake in adopting ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ perspectives on governance network participation and potential avenues for comparative inquiry. The...

  9. SEVEN Conclusion
    (pp. 151-156)

    The wider context for the Marxist-Gramscian perspective developed in this book is what Callinicos (2007b, p 345) sees as the changing of the subject away from postmodernism back towards capitalism, class and resistance – themes that the transformation thesis dismissed amid the crisis of Marxism, the global capitalist renaissance and its fetish for networks. The purpose, therefore, has been to show how the Marxist and Gramscian traditions are relevant in rethinking governance today. Harvey comments that although postmodernism promised aesthetic emancipation, working with the grain of capital accumulation meant that its initially spectacular designs soon took on a predictably monotonous...