The Subnational Region: A Utopia? The Challenge of Governing Through Soft Power

The Subnational Region: A Utopia? The Challenge of Governing Through Soft Power

Alexander Lawrie (University of Technology Sydney, Australia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1645-3.ch005
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Most states worldwide possess two or three levels of government, from national to provincial and localities. Subnational governing arrangements are emerging in response to widespread decentralization, globalization, and urbanization, with this level increasingly considered the ideal spatial scale for effectively harnessing governing capacity. Yet regional governing arrangements often lack the traditional statutory and administrative governing tools of the state. Instead, they tend to rely on voluntary co-ordination and co-operation. Emboldened with more traditional governing tools, provincial and local states can work against these networks to protect their own power. This case study of Sydney, Australia, examines the dimensions of hard and soft power in a regional governing network and the role of provincial and local actors in determining the prospects for regional governance. In the absence of state-like mechanisms of hard power, the soft power on which regional governing networks rely will likely remain inferior for the governing task.
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The Governing Task

At its broadest level, governance involves the provision of services, when and where needed, to realize collective goals (Gleeson & Low, 2000). Representative, welfare, technocratic, collaborative, integrative, and resilient are all examples of different types of governance (Healey, 1997; Innes & Booher, 2010). Some, such as representative, welfare, and technocratic, rely on the statutory and administrative tools of the state to compel service provision (Healey, 1997). Others, such as collaborative, integrative, and resilient, rely on voluntary co-ordination and co-operation for service provision (Healey, 1997).

In most parts of the world, governments define, and are defined by, systems of taxation, service provision, and representation which, together, enable the governing tasks (Hambleton, 2007; Kubler, 2005; Mulgan, 2007). The first of these tasks is to make decisions on collective goals (such as wellbeing or economic growth) and the services needed to realize these. The second is to co-ordinate resources to provide services which realize collective goals.

These governing tasks are legitimized by political parties committing to particular collective goals and offering different service and resourcing packages to realize these. Once elected through spatially bound political competitions, a party forms government charged with delivering the service and resource package. This task typically relies on the hard power statutory and administrative tools possessed by the state. Through these tools, governments coerce collective action to deliver services and secure resources for these (Kubler, 2005). However, calls of government failure – a crisis – in these tasks have grown over the last few decades (Fukuyama, 2014; Keane, 2009; Norris, 2011).

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