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The Infrastructured State

Territoriality and the National Infrastructure System

Colin Turner

At the core of the logic of this book is that states engage in infrastructuring as a means of securing and enhancing their territoriality. By positioning infrastructure as a system, there is a presumption that all infrastructures exhibit some degree of mutual dependence. As such, a National Infrastructure System (NIS) is not simply about conventional conceptions of infrastructure based on those that support economic activity (i.e. energy, transport and information) but also about broader hard and soft structures that both enable and are supported by the aforementioned economic infrastructures. Consequently, this book offers an ambitious holistic view on the form of NIS arguing that the infrastructural mandate requires a conception of the state that encapsulates themes from both the competition and the welfare states in infrastructure provision.
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Chapter 6: Soft infrastructure

Colin Turner

Extract

The notion of a state’s soft infrastructure is a relatively recent consideration within the field of infrastructure studies and beyond (see, for example, Turner and Johnson 2017). In some of its earliest conceptualisations (see, for example, Niskanen 1991), soft infrastructure is viewed as the core institutional framework that underpins the operation of an economic, political and/or social system. Overtime, this conceptualisation has evolved to stress the role of soft infrastructure as an enabler of hard infrastructure (i.e. transport, energy and information), with the former setting the frameworks and rules for the latter’s establishment, evolution and usage. The salience of soft infrastructure to national infrastructure systems (NISs) has only increased as these systems have morphed into polycentric systems under a mix of state and non-state ownership, but also as shifts in the form and volume of flows within and across NIS has reshaped usage. Initially this chapter will examine the emergent themes between territoriality and links between the soft and hard infrastructure systems. Thereafter the chapter moves on to focus upon two main themes on the soft/hard infrastructure interface namely usage and provision-based issues. The salience of soft infrastructure to the NIS reflects that the ability of hard infrastructure to function to the needs of the state’s territorial strategy requires an enabling institutional system comprising a set of rules (both formal and informal) that seek to shape activity over – and development within – the NIS to ensure its adherence to the state’s territorial objectives (North 1994). These rules operate as constraints

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