The Challenge of Adapting Form to Function
Edited by William M. Lafferty
Chapter 1: Introduction: Form and Function in Governance for Sustainable Development
William M. Lafferty The relationship between form and function is an ongoing theme of the ancient discourse on political steering. Governments are never established in a theoretical vacuum. They reflect the exigencies of their time and place, as well as the conflicting interests and power bases of their major actors, both individual and collective. They also reflect the basic values and goals inherent in the interdependent social and economic systems that government is designed to ‘steer’. The ‘form’ of government tends, in other words, to reflect the dominant ‘functions’ of the different systems and actors that are to be governed. Political analysts have, for example, long debated the functional interdependence between the Western model of liberal–pluralist democracy and the dominant values and tasks of free market societies. American, Canadian and British theorists in particular have identified the Western model as ‘competitive democracy’, with ‘competition’ understood as a basic feature of politics viewed as a market analogy. From Schumpeter, through Dahl and Macpherson to Held – with continuous input from scores of comparative democratic empiricists – Western democracy has increasingly been portrayed as having taken on the distinct form and symbolism of ‘market democracy’.1 The established position of the model has also been strong enough to generate scores of alternative theorists. Debates between ‘realists’ and ‘idealists’ have been a dominant feature of academic political science throughout the latter half of the past century. The models of the realists have been criticized as being overly dependent on the exigencies of the capitalist–pluralist...