Sullivan, H. (2006), "Remaking Governance. Peoples, Politics and the Public Sphere", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 5, pp. 526-527. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550610677816
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This book, edited by a pre‐eminent social policy scholar, sets out to explore the social significance of governance. Drawing on a range of theories across a number of disciplines, the book critically appraises the ways in which, it argues, governance is being “remade”, specifically focusing on the impact of social, cultural and institutional practices on the constitution of peoples, politics and the nature of the public sphere.
The book is by turns illuminating and insightful. The focus on “the social” as “both an object of governance strategies and a resource to be mobilised in the process of governing” (p. 209) brings together issues that are the staple of discussions about governance and its relationship with “the social”, such as collaboration and public participation, with those that have been more or less neglected, such as the gendered and racialised nature of EU and member state policies and programmes that are integral to how ‘the social’ is constituted and governed. In so doing, it provides an important and much more rounded account of the potential and the problems associated with dominant interpretations of governance.
While the book offers evidence of the dominance of neo‐liberal philosophy in the operation of governance (early chapters by Carmel and Lendvai illustrate how social policy in the EU has become subordinate to and an expression of economic policy), it challenges the idea that there is no room for manoeuvre or resistance on the part of citizens and communities. Instead it argues that alternative strategies are possible, nourished by factors such as shared lived experiences, international law, a reframing of “the political”, and the opportunity spaces that are opened up via new collaborative institutions (see chapters by Newman on gender, Johansson and Hvinden, Bang and Sterling). Throughout the book the authors consistently emphasise the importance of context in shaping how governance will be remade. This in turn determines how far the various alternative strategies are needed/become available.
Unlike many edited collections this book works both as a set of stand alone chapters and as a coherent whole, largely because of the skill of the editor in setting up a convincing analytical framework in the introduction to the collection, and then providing a way of reading the various contributions in relation to that framework in the conclusion. The chapters by Clarke and Saward are particularly noteworthy; the former for its discussion of “the contested limits of European diversity” (p. 34); and the latter for its delineation of new forms of representation claims appropriate to new forms of governance.
The book contains few conclusions to comfort overburdened public sector managers. Instead it is resolute in its portrayal of “governing the social” as perpetually unstable, continually contested and bereft of easy policy and practice prescriptions. It demands quite a lot from the reader and those who are not familiar with cultural theory may find it particularly challenging. However, it is certainly worth the effort.