Introduction: Democracy, conflict and participation in decentred governance

Steven Griggs, Aletta J. Norval, Hendrik Wagenaar

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11 Citations (Scopus)


New canonical beliefs in government enter our collective understandings through compelling narratives of inescapable pressures for social, political and economic change. These narratives typically speak of 'ruptures with the past'. While they list the failings of traditional policy instruments to address new complexities, they extol the promise of new organisational forms and strategic approaches. They give policymakers and practitioners assurances of solutions and 'road maps' through which they can navigate the confusing events that are deemed to frustrate their everyday activities. Of course, any new claims of orthodoxy are inevitably open to charges of simplification and the undue aggregation of complex and distinct practices. The struggle to impose such dominant narratives arguably rests on the capacity of their proponents to construct credible claims to uniformity across diverse practices and contexts. However, accusations of simplification and alike should not detract from recognition of how far new ideas held in 'good currency' are inevitably tied to the work of government. For, as Rose (1999, 8) notes, the practices of government are 'both made possible by and constrained by what can be thought at any particular moment in our history. To analyse the history of government, then, requires attention to the conditions under which it becomes possible to consider certain things to be true - and hence to say and do certain things'. Recognising this intertwining of the activities of thought and government, we suggest that we are now faced with a new orthodoxy encapsulated in the narrative of the 'shift from government to governance' (Frederickson 2007; Chhotray and Stoker 2009; Bellamy and Palumbo 2010). This governance narrative has become an indispensable point of departure for many inquiries into the contemporary practices of policymaking. At the same time, it has attracted substantive praise for its analytical move away from the 'narrow' confines of government to the 'broader' concerns of governance interactions (Rhodes 2000), 60-1, with Guy Peters going so far as to suggest that a focus on governance rather than government obliges 'the discipline of political science to recapture some of its roots by focusing more explicitly on how the public sector, in conjunction with private sector actors or alone, is capable of providing direction and control to society and economy' (Peters 2011, 63).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPractices of Freedom
Subtitle of host publicationDecentred Governance, Conflict and Democratic Participation
EditorsSteven Griggs, Aletta J. Norval, Hendrik Wagenaar
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9781107296954
ISBN (Print)9781107056107
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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