Governance and Democracy katarsis survey Paper

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contributions from different disciplines. It is with this challenge in mind that we respond to the 



Governance: An Analytical or a Normative Concept? 

The notion of governance can be regarded as both analytical and normative. It is analytical 

when it aims to identify social arrangements that, beyond state institutions, take part in and are 

structured by the exercise of power. In these arrangements, various actors from civil society as 

well as from private-sector organisations participate or can participate.  

On the other hand, governance can also be normative. It is normative ex ante when 

organisations establish in advance, as international financial organisations do, what is «good ” 

or «bad ” governance based on criteria that are, moreover, not neutral. Governance can be 

normative ex post when the analysis leads to more solidarity-based propositions, as is the case 

with certain community or civil-society models. In the latter case, the analysis indirectly 

results in normative governance. But, in fact, all normativity implies an analysis and all 

analysis leads to normativity.  

That being said, the main interest of the notion of governance lies in the analytical perspective 

it points to. It allows us to broaden the analysis of power and decision-making. Governance 

designates a field of research regarding power in contexts where states no longer hold 

monopolies. Within the perspective of governance, while the state cannot be considered an 

actor like the others, it does not hold a monopoly on the exercise of power. Moreover, in this 

perspective, the state is not seen as a monolithic block and, even if its measures and 

orientations converge on the main institutional orientations, the latter diverge on many 

strategic options.  

Naturally, the different levels of the problem demarcate different spaces of governance, which 

indicates the existence of problems at various levels: micro-governance (organisations and 

businesses), meso-governance (local and regional territories, clusters) and macro-governance 

(nation state and international regions). 











The Transformation of Governance: Erosion or Reorganisation of Citizenship

Welfare State, and Democracy? 

One may wonder if this question is properly posed or if it should be stated the other way 

around. In fact, our interest in governance lies less in evaluating the effects of liberal 

governance than in investigating how a democratic and participative model of governance for 

a new, solidarity-based citizenship is built. 

Governance concerns the distribution of power. Restructuring governance activates processes 

for reviewing relations between the forms of market and public regulation and initiates active 

citizen participation. Market and public regulations are relatively univocal: In market 

regulations, prices based on market mechanisms dictate the governance. In public governance, 

mandates and programmes are defined by public authorities with the help of experts within a 

hierarchical and centralised framework. Once participation is offered to other stakeholders, in 

particular civil society, the need for other forms of regulation promoting citizen involvement, 

solidarity, and reciprocity arises. 

The development of regulation modalities that complement state regulation creates room for 

experimentation and highlights the importance of social actors who, until then, had not or had 

hardly been heard or taken into consideration: civil society in general, citizens' expression of 

democracy through direct democracy, and social economy in particular. These new ways have 

become possible because modern liberalism, with its tolerance for certain political 

innovations, generates room to manoeuvre. This room may allow for pockets of participative 

and solidarity-based governance that strive for individual, collective, sectoral, and territorial 

empowerment. The erosion of old institutions opens the path to new actors, thereby expanding 

the space for social innovation. Naturally, this does not happen on its own. It requires a 

context of social reorganisation, thus of social arrangements as well as new action rules, where 

roles are redistributed on the basis of power relations between the stakeholders of the society. 

It represents empowerment for some and disempowerment for others, the whole taking place in 

context of conflict and struggle. Empowerment is here the fruit of collective action, social 

struggle, and social compromise between actors.  

Restructuring governance can unleash potential for building a more just society. 

Contemporary neoliberal capitalism creates room to manoeuvre up to a certain level of 

transformation, depending on a determined level of tolerance for social change. The 

implementation of solidarity-based modes of governance lowers the tolerance thresholds and 

broadens the scope for solidarity. This calls for forums to discuss, debate, and negotiate, to 











create approaches to mediation that allow for the establishment of new forms of coordination 

between the market sphere, the public sector, and civil society. In order to arrive at a more 

democratic, more solidarity-based whole, mediation must be brought to the meta-

governmental sphere of decision-making, and thus, to a higher level where the social values 

likely to dictate the direction we want to pursue as a global society enter into play.  

We are thus thinking of a governance that is more in line with the general interest and the 

needs of the collectivity. This reflection essentially concerns two levels:  


Governments of nation states. These are prompted to rethink their functions (regalian 

fonctions, regulation, redistribution, production, and delivery of services) and their priorities 

due to the complexity of their problems. Unlike “corporate governance”, governance applied 

to public administration can be regarded as a search for alternative modes of public action for 

the public good without reverting to coercive instruments. Also referred to as “partner state”, 

“facilitator state”, or “subsidiary state”, these modes promote the autonomy of 

actors/partners. The resulting practices aim to redefine the relations between the state and 

society as well as the modes of public intervention. The new governance thus seeks to surpass 

the limits of the hierarchy and of the market by calling on a plurality of public and private 

actors, including those from civil society, the mobilisation of which is based on reciprocity 

and solidarity. 


The territory, in particular the decisions concerning development and planning at the global, 

national, regional, and local scales. Elected officials and the public service are not regarded as 

the only representatives of the general interest. While the former pursue electoral goals, the 

latter tend to defend corporate interests and individual interests. This explains the 

shortcomings of representative democracy, which should be complemented by a range of 

institutional means and mechanisms developed by, among others, participative and social 

democracy. Similarly, this entails bringing decision-making closer to those that are directly 

concerned. Moreover, as the general interest is shaped socially and historically along 

solidarity-based lines, this leads to a plurality of general interests. This in turn allows for a 

“geography of constituted general interests”, namely, sub-groups of a whole, the geographical 

boundaries (national, regional, local) of which are only one form among others.  


Is Democracy a Political or Socioeconomic Concept? 

With each discipline developing its own approach to democracy, the concept often tends to be 

regarded as cut off from social reality. An analysis therefore must be more comprehensive and 

transgress disciplinary boundaries, even if the disciplines imply instituted corporations. This 

calls for the identification of modes of governance that allow to expand democracy.  

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