The Regulatory State vs. the Networked Polity: confronting narratives of change

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Abstract

The aim of the article is to summarize and reassess the innovations brought about by governance theory. It is argued that the notion of governance is a conceptual device that could help rationalise and articulate the changes undertaken by liberal democracies since the late 1970s. The article suggests the need to distinguish between two distinct research programmes composing governance studies, which are influenced by alternative epistemic traditions—political economy and economic sociology. Rationalizations of change influenced by political economy support the idea that the outcome of recent political change is a market-oriented 'Regulatory State', while those influence by economic sociology see governance as supporting the rising of a 'Networked Polity'. Since these research programmes blend together descriptive and prescriptive elements, what is required is a twin type of evaluation that could assess both their relative heuristic power and ability to justify the normative ideals they seek to engender. The main claim advanced in the paper is that, while the Regulatory State is a better heuristic category for understanding recent political change than that of the Networked Polity, the reverse happens when these two entities are considered as normative ideals to engender.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalOBSERVATOIRE DE LA SOCIÉTÉ BRITANNIQUE
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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