The Construction of Agency in Practice
Edited by Göran Sundström, Linda Soneryd and Staffan Furusten
Chapter 1: Democracy, Governance and the Problem of the Modern Actor
Göran Sundström, Staffan Furusten and Linda Soneryd It has often been said that modern democracies are becoming more complex, fragmented and multilayered. In recent decades we have witnessed decentralization in many organizations, increasingly complex social problems, accelerating internationalization, growing and more specialized public administration, increased demand for expertise, and rapid development of information and communication technologies. Several scholars have argued that with these changes power has slipped away from the political centre (the government) in several directions: upwards to international organizations (not least the European Union), downwards to local authorities and municipalities, inwards to semi-autonomous state agencies, and outwards to private organizations. As Rhodes (1994, 1997) would say, the state is ‘hollowing out’. In societies with hollowed-out states, decision-making processes have taken new forms, and “from government to governance” has become a catch phrase (see e.g. Rhodes 1997; Pierre & Peters 2000; Kjær 2004; Marcussen & Torfing 2007). These changes mark a shift, or one could even say a displacement, from state-centred, authoritative and hierarchical to more society-centred, egalitarian and network-based forms of decision making; and they signal the dissolution of previously established boundaries between private and public organizations. The extent to which displacement has actually occurred is widely debated (Hajer & Wagenaar 2003 p. 4). Yet it is clear that governance is an important concept in current research on state and public policies. We also believe that there is more governance today than was the case two or three decades ago, and that the focus on governance is increasing....
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