Network governance theory: a Gramscian critique
Influential governance theories argue that we live increasingly in a world of networks either relegating hierarchy to the shadows or dismissing it altogether. This paper develops a Gramscian critique of these currents, advancing two key arguments. First, drawing on Gramsci’s concepts of hegemony and passive revolution, it reinterprets the cultivation of networks as a prominent element in the hegemonic strategies of Western neoliberalism, exemplified by UK public policy. Second, however, governing networks struggle to cultivate trust, relying instead on hierarchy and closure. It is argued that network governance can therefore be understood as a form of Gramsci’s integral state, a concept which highlights both the continuing centrality of coercion in the governance system and the limits of the networks project. It is concluded that conceiving of urban governing networks as micro configurations of the integral state offers a distinctive way of overcoming the ‘government to governance’ dualism. Keywords: governance, networks, Gramsci, neoliberalism, hegemony, integral state, passive revolution
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