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The US and countries of the European Union have followed a transition from government to governance (Denters and Rose, 2005; Geedes, 2005), a shift that is also evident within the UK (Stoker, 1998; Kooiman, 2001; Newman, 2001). Rhodes elaborates on this, stating that ‘governance signifies a change in the meaning of government, referring to a new process of governing; or a changed condition of ordered rule; or the new method by which society is governed’ (1997: 46). It is further characterised by  ‘the processes, in increasingly fragmented societies…whereby some degree of societal order is achieved, goals decided on, policies elaborated and services delivered’ (Atkinson, 2003: 103) and marks significant changes in the ways that governments govern (Pierre and Peters, 2000).

The progression of policy towards the inclusion of different actors within governance is ‘located in broader patterns of economic and social transformation’ (Newman, 2001: 11). Firstly, in the context of accelerated globalisation whereby increasingly mobile capital investments and the internationalisation of investment flows (Oatley, 1998) have attributed to the inability of traditional government to ‘control through hierarchy’ (Newman, 2001: 11). Secondly, governance can be interpreted as dealing with a society that is increasingly complex, diverse and fragmented (Kooiman and van Vliet, 1993). People and places are connected more diffusely than in the past allowing for cities to be interpreted as ‘a locus of overlapping webs or relations on diverse spatial scales’ (Healey et al., 1997: 4). It is societal ‘complexity, dynamics and diversity [that] has led to a shrinking external autonomy of the nation state combined with a shrinking internal dominance vis-a-vis social subsystems’ (Kooiman and van Vliet, 1993: 64).

Kearns and Paddison indentify the shift towards governance as a way ‘to get things done in face of complexity’ (2000: 847) and that by establishing consensus of a shared vision for the enhancement of the locality, cities are better equipped to enhance their international credentials as a preferred place for citizens to live and work. This in turn increases their international competitiveness which is an absolute necessity given that globalisation has meant that ‘cities are now part of an increasingly competitive world’ (Oatley, 1998: 5). This argument is extended by the ‘hollowing out of the state’ in which Rhodes describes ‘the loss of functions by central and local government departments to alternative service delivery systems’ (Rhodes, 1994: 138). This is consistent with Jessop (1994) who supports the argument that the nation-state has been ‘hollowed out’, through processes of denationalisation, destatisation and internationalisation. This is facilitated by power shifts from government towards international financial markets and the merging of national governments, including the UK, into the Single Market of the European Union (Rhodes, 1994; Cornford et al., 1992). Globalisation and the nature of the European Union are seen to have directed power towards regions (Jones, 2001; Newman, 2001) which are identified as the solution for installing economic competitiveness and growth in the place of the state (Ohmae, 1995). Therefore ‘globalisation, internal devolution within states and the growth of supranational bodies challenge the capacity of nation states to control their environment’ (Newman, 2001: 13).

These macro-social changes of neoliberalism have ushered new predicaments that cannot be managed by market or state planning alone and have negated the state’s ability to govern. The state has thus taken on a role of facilitating in which it ‘should exercise only limited powers of its own, steering and regulating rather than rowing and providing’ (Rose, 2000: 323-4). It can be argued that the progression of governance is in parallel to ‘the hollowing out of the state’ in which central government is unable to steer and intervene (Rhodes, 1996) therefore ‘new forms of interactive government are necessary’ (Kooiman and van Vliet, 1993: 64). Partnerships implemented by government from 1991 under the Major and Blair government are representative of the strategy to advance cooperation in an increasingly fragmented landscape. They are a tool of policy which presents new opportunities for actors to engage in spaces of governance in a new set of relationships between policy-makers, citizens and agencies who supply service delivery (Raco and Flint, 2001). Integral to the shift towards governance through partnerships are communities whose representation signifies the reinvention of urban policy so as to rebuild the ‘social in a manner which operationalises the capacities of diverse associations, movements, and groups’ (Dean, 1999: 207).


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