Critical Reflections on Interactive Governance
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Critical Reflections on Interactive Governance

Self-organization and Participation in Public Governance

Edited by Jurian Edelenbos and Ingmar van Meerkerk

In many countries, government and society have undergone a major shift in recent years, now tending toward ‘smaller government’ and ‘bigger society’. This development has lent increased meaning to the notion of interactive governance, a concept that this book takes not as a normative ideal but as an empirical phenomenon that needs constant critical scrutiny, reflection and embedding in modern societies.
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Chapter 16: Governments and self-organization: a hedgehog’s dilemma

Taco Brandsen


Brandsen argues in Chapter 16 that in the context of interactive governance, self-organization represents the most extreme manifestation of active involvement. Rather than participating in government initiatives, citizens take the initiative themselves and government may or may not be involved. Brandsen presents key issues in helping to understand this phenomenon. He argues that the dream of self-organizing citizens is part of a longer-term trend, despite its appearance of fashionable frill. The chapter discusses how different theories can help us explain why and how citizens organize themselves. Brandsen also discusses dilemmas faced by governments in dealing with self-organization: more so than other types of interactive governance, civic-induced interactive governance raises moral questions over the role of public authorities and the legitimacy of their interventions. The chapter ends with a brief reflection on the future potential for collaboration between government and self-organizing citizens.

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