Nodal Governance, Democracy and the New 'Denizens': Challenging the Westphalian Ideal

Clifford Shearing, University of Toronto
Jennifer Wood, University of Toronto

Established notions of citizens and citizenship are informed by the Westphalian ideal of autonomous, territorially bounded nation-states . As collective life is defined and explained by reference to 'national' cultures, politics and economic systems, to be a 'citizen' means to have rights and responsibilities consistent with "substantive incorporation into society" (Young, 1998:65). In this 'modern' world "at one with itself" (Ibid), governance, and hence citizenship, is understood in reference to the classic liberal distinction between the 'public' and the 'private'. This Westphalian ideal, which continues to inspire the governmental structures and processes of many nations, is no longer as self-evident as it once was as a prescription for good governance. The features of the world that this ideal signifies (namely sovereign nation states with responsibility for governance exercised through state agencies) have always been layered into, upon and around assemblages of governance that do not fit the ideal (Krasner 2001). However, it is only recently that the Westphalian model and its utility as an organizing concept began to be seriously questioned. Today, as this layering of multiple worlds becomes increasingly visible, the simple elegance of the Westphalian model is no longer as compelling as it once was. Within our changing world, because states continue to exist as important sites of governance and political authority, citizenship remains relevant and most people today continue to be defined as citizens of one or more nation states. However, as new auspices of governance are emerging and re-configuring collective life, people are finding themselves with a host of non-state affiliations and associated expectations. If we are to understand these new statuses and their implications we need to extend our conceptual framework in ways that enable us to home in on them as central objects of analysis. As we have argued elsewhere (see Hermer et al., 2002, Wood and Shearing, 1999) our conceptions of governance and citizenship, and the worldview such conceptions support, are lagging considerably behind our practices. As such, we will begin this paper by reviewing some of the transformations in governance that have taken place. We will then propose three new conceptual pillars that we suggest should be employed in coming to terms with these new worlds and the political statuses that have emerged as part of them. These concepts are "nodal governance", "denizens" and "communal space". We will explore these terrains through the empirical window of the governance of security. Following this we will explore the normative implications of nodal governance as it has taken shape to date, with an emphasis on the 'governance disparity' that is paralleling the 'wealth disparity' across the globe. In response to this disparity, we will end with an outline of our normative vision and practical program aimed at deepening democracy in poor areas of South Africa, Argentina and elsewhere. We will argue that the main virtue of nodal governance - namely, the emphasis on local capacity and knowledge - can be retrieved, re-affirmed and re-institutionalized in ways that enhance the self-direction of poor communities while strengthening their 'collective capital'.

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Updated 05/20/2006