August 19, 2016

Society-centred vs state-centred

THERE are two approaches by which the concept of governance has been understood—society-centred and state-centred. Both approaches attempt to understand governance through the lenses of importance to each one while arriving at a greater understanding of the complicated relationship between the two. We must study each approach in order to understand the complex relationships involved in the process of governance.
The society-centred approach makes the role of the government ambiguous and marginalised on account of the proliferation of the complex horizontal forms of societal relations and governance networks. In fact, the sovereign state, under this approach, loses its grip and is replaced with the new idea of pluricentric government based on interdependence, negotiation and trust. There are two parts to this approach. The first part is the shift from government to governance, which has resulted in a wide range of actors getting involved in the governance process.
There is more focus on networks and partnership along with the blurred boundaries between public and private sectors. That being the case, self-organising policy networks are a major proposition of the society-centred approach in the policy making process.
On the other hand, the state centred relational approach is based on the assumption that the hierarchical control of the state is very much alive.
According to this belief, in some arenas, such as defence, security and finance, policies are required to be made hierarchically by the state, and public consultation does not exist at all or is extremely limited. And when the government chooses to govern in alternative ways, followers of this approach argue that the state usually retains a preeminent position. They further say that the state employs mechanisms to seek assistance in its function of governing society.
With the help of private firms, the government can purchase expertise and, in the case of controversial decisions, generate a certain amount of political credibility. This gives more legitimacy to policies by the media and the public and elicits endorsements from key stakeholders. This ultimately enhances overall governing capacity because it relies not only on the state but with the broader array of actors involved. It is more likely to bring more capabilities than the state can achieve alone. Nevertheless, this broadening of the array of governance does not mean that the relationship is equal.


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