Governance and Democracy katarsis survey Paper



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CAHIERS DU CRISES 

 COLLECTION ÉTUDES THÉORIQUES 



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for their benefit, others stress its role as a protector of the powerful and the status quo, 

therefore suppressing women’s emancipatory endeavours (Peterson 1992). Concerning the 

institutional dimensions, Birgit Sauer (2001) stresses the importance of the state as organizer 

of gender relations. Kreisky (1994) identifies “Männerbünde” (men-only clubs) as a 

widespread form of internal organization in the political and business domain which permits 

male control over decision-making. “Masculinity” is an important mechanism which organizes 

governance in a way that favours male behaviour and material practices (Sauer 2001: 56). 

Nevertheless, the welfare state was also an important element concerning the emancipation of 

women, as state provision of reproductive services also provided women with the possibility 

to enter the labour market. However, they have done so mainly in part-time positions, which 

are seen as inferior, considering both income and internal hierarchy (Sassoon 1987). In any 

case, governance centrally steers gender relations and is therefore responsible for exclusionary 

dynamics, which mainly affect women. 

Another related exclusionary dynamic – elitism – can be situated at the interface of the 

procedural and the content dimension. Elitism has become deeply rooted not only in 

conservative groups but also in apparently progressive organisations, like NGOs or left 

political parties. These elitist convictions even within progressive actors affirm neoliberal 

prejudices against collective and democratic decision making, denounced as populist and 

emotional. Thereby, it delegitimises the political as a choice between alternatives (Mouffe 

2006). To grasp these deep-rooted dynamics, a short detour is helpful. Joseph Schumpeter is 

considered to be an “emblematic thinker” of Post-Fordism (Jessop 2002: 120). He insisted on 

the crucial role of introducing new modes of organisation (Schumpeter 1932; Becker et al. 

2002), but focussed on the creative and enlightened individual in his reflections on innovation 

and entrepreneurship. His balanced account of capitalism, socialism and democracy is a 

further strengths of his work (Schumpeter 1947). But as he disregards the collective search for 

socially-creative strategies, he serves well current interests: by substituting the focus on mass 

consumption (and therefore of mass participation in economic development) present in 

Keynesian ideas, with entrepreneurship and innovation, he fosters a more elitist and 

authoritarian conception of innovation and development. Schumpeter´s view is more in line 

with a conception of development via the elitist trusteeship than a conception that aspires self-

development and popular sovereignty (cf. Novy et al. 2006). Schumpeter´s reflection on 

capitalist creative destruction was inspired by Marx, but focuses more on individual brilliance 

than conscious and collective self-realisation of labouring human beings (Cowen/Shenton 

1996). Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that Schumpeter reduces democracy to an act 

of choice between different leaders (März 1983: 39). Schumpeter´s conception is influenced 

by Pareto and other social theorists who conceptualise society as a natural pyramid, led by the 

best and fittest (Pareto 1975: 111). Even when Schumpeter refers to socialism, it is more in 




GOVERNANCE AND DEMOCRACY 

 KATARIS PROJECT



 

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line with an elitist trusteeship than with popular sovereignty, heroising the creative 

entrepreneur as a great individual – this time in line with Weber and Sombart (März 1983: 99).  

These tendencies of the capitalist form of state have been described as “authoritarian statism” 

(Poulantzas 2001), which is characterized by the degeneration of liberal-democratic 

institutions – especially the parliament – on the one hand and the concentration of decision 

making power within the executive branch on the other hand. Furthermore, formal personal 

liberties are severely limited. The state is being weakened and strengthened at the same time, 

as steering functions grow in importance to the detriment of direct involvement in the 

economy via state-owned companies (cf. Kannankulam 2006). While sticking to the argument 

that the new emerging modes of governance involve the phenomena described above, elitist 

governance describes ongoing restructuring more precisely. 

2.3. 

Possibilities for Socially Creative Strategies 

Strategies for social inclusion have to take the dialectic between agency and structure into 

account. Can initiatives based on small-scale agency successfully counter social exclusion? 

“How does one go about including individuals and groups in a set of structured social 

relationships responsible for excluding them in the first place? Or, put another way, to what 

extent do efforts at social inclusion accommodate people to relative powerlessness rather than 

challenge the hierarchies that create it?” (Labonte 2004: 117). This is important for a critical 

reflection of socially creative strategies as they should be evaluated for their capacity to 

transgress the dominant structures in order to create alternative social spaces. Such alternative 

social spaces should provide sufficiently demarcated freedom for action that permits 

alternative social practices to emerge. These emancipated spaces should offer resources to 

survive in a sustainable way and possibly expanding their scope and influence, pushing against 

and challenging other social spaces. The accumulation of many small changes obtained 

through such alternative social spaces finally has the potential to challenge the powerlessness 

of excluded groups and thus the dominant structures that excluded them (Arthur et al. 2007). 

This would permit avoiding one of the biggest dangers inherent “in the shift towards agency-

based local policy practice” (Alcock 2006: 249) – the idea that the excluded people themselves 

are responsible for their exclusion. This “blaming the victim” strategy is not only problematic 

for moral reasons; it also significantly reduces the potential for success of the initiatives 

undertaken, because “area-based poverty is not always a product of area-based problems” 

(Alcock 2006: 246f.). 





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