On-Line Governance

On-Line Governance

Gráinne Kirwan (Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Ireland) and Andrew Power (Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Ireland)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-350-8.ch013

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Background: Governments’ Loss Of Power

Plato saw both the centrality of the citizen and justice as the natural state of man; ‘justice is to the individual as sharpness is to a knife’ (Plato, 400BC/2007, p.37). Others saw the state as a necessary evil, required to keep the peace in the face of man’s desire for dominion or control. Thomas Moor imagined a utopia of city states with power in the hands of the citizen, whilst Hobbs saw the destructive nature of man requiring a strong government to protect us from ourselves. The modern state has been defined as ‘a legal and political organization with the power to require obedience and loyalty from its citizens’ (Seton-Watson, 1977, p.1). The monopoly of this power and the maintenance of a territorial boundary are also seen as a defining feature (McCall, 1999). Hay (1996) sought to see the state in three distinct phases, or moments of ‘stateness’, the state as a nation, the state as a territory and the state as an institution. None of these models saw the citizen as a requirement at the centre of the state or its power. In recent years nation states have seen changes in the way they can exercise power. Power has gravitated to either the sub-national or supranational level. Morison (1998, p.517) has spoken about this as the ‘hollowing out’ of the State and discussed the ‘fugitive nature of power’. This has led to predictions of the end of the nation State (Ohmae, 1996) but, Pierson (2004, p.176) argues that States are diversifying, and developing. In the case of virtual worlds, the idea of a government presence at all has been challenged for some time. In 1996, in a reaction to the Communications Decency Act in the US, John Perry Barlow, a Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, published ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’. This document states, for example, “Governments of the Industrial World.....I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather” (quoted in Sustein, 2007, p153). As we will see later in this chapter, governments and state agencies have had a powerful role in the formulation and regulation of the internet and its virtual spaces since inception and this rather naive world view is inconsistent with the nature of our social development.

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