Beyond Actor Network Theory to the Marriage of Moments

Beyond Actor Network Theory to the Marriage of Moments

Carol Nelson (University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica)
DOI: 10.4018/IJANTTI.2016070104
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In 2004, the Government of Jamaica and the Confederation of Trade Unions signed a social partnership agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which maintained the size of the public sector and wage expenditure, in exchange for no redundancies. The implementation of the Agreement unearthed unanticipated implications for the practice of power within the partnership. The ontology of Actor Network Theory, conceptualizes the MoU as an actor which, through the mechanics of translation, creates its own actor network that it seeks to inscribe with its own discourse to attain a ‘black box' status. The inclusion of discourse as a moment and use of Critical Discourse Analysis provides for the penetration of the impenetrable black box of network interaction and analytical possibilities. The paper argues for the recognition of discourse as a moment in ANT which strengthens it and affords a mode of analysis to deconstruct or explore inner distributions of power.
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Actor Network Theory (Ant) And The Memorandum Of Understanding Social Partnership Agreement (Mou)

In terms of context, the signing of a social partnership agreement or MOU by the Government of Jamaica and the Public Sector Trade Unions in 2004 occurred against the background of dire fiscal and macroeconomic challenges. The Ministry of Finance and Planning (MOFP) in response to these circumstances, issued an advisory which capped the filling of vacant posts, as well as the creation, reclassification and upgrading of existing posts within the public sector.

The objective was to reduce any additional public sector salary related expenditures in the budget. However, the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) took umbrage to this unilateral decision by the Government, which triggered a series of meetings and negotiations leading to terms, represented in the text of the ‘Public Sector Memorandum of Understanding’, which was coined the “MoU”.

The major quid pro quo between the Government and the JCTU was the maintenance of the current size and cost of public sector wage expenditure in exchange for not making 15,000 workers redundant. The MoU was applicable to the entire public sector and provided the Government with a ‘breathing space’ to address issues surrounding the macro economy.

Social partnership emerged in part, as a form of governance, reflecting a broadened governance capacity incorporating relatively autonomous institutions, networks and actors (Jessop, 2004; Kooiman, 2000; Rhodes, 1997) into the political system to enhance the governability of the political system as a whole.

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