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Edited by Henrik Enderlein, Sonja Wälti and Michael Zürn
Chapter 25: Civil Society in Multi-level Governance
Jan Aart Scholte 25.1 INTRODUCTION Contemporary history has seen a shift in the overall mode of governance. Instead of the Westphalian, sovereigntist, statist structure that characterized societal regulation in the modern era, governance today tends to transpire through multi-actor, transscalar, diffuse and decentered networks. The present volume describes this condition as ‘multi-level governance.’ How do citizens engage this altered mode of governance? Other contributions to this handbook focus on official aspects of multi-level regulation. Yet multi-level governance, like all governance, is a question of the governed as well as the governors. It is therefore important that this handbook also devotes an entry to citizen participation in, and control over, multi-level regulatory apparatuses. Such a discussion is conveniently framed around the notion of ‘civil society.’ Many students of multi-level governance have referred in this regard to ‘non-state actors’; yet this negative vocabulary stresses what the phenomenon is not rather than what it is. Moreover, the phrase ‘non-state actors’ can encompass not only citizen groups, but also firms and non-state governance bodies. ‘Civil society’ has the attractions of being a positive and more circumscribed term. To be sure, the concept of civil society has been diversely interpreted and remains considerably contested (Cohen and Arato 1992). However, for present purposes it can be understood as that arena of politics where associations of citizens seek, from outside political parties, to shape rules that govern social life. Civil society associations encompass innumerable and diverse non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements. Modern political theory has normally...
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