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What I want to do is approach the theme of the conference, “Dialogue – cooperation and conflict” – by way of the theoretical and methodological framework I am using in my current research, which is focused on aspects of social change – “transition” – in Central and Eastern Europe, especially Romania. This framework is centred upon critical discourse analysis, but it has an interdisciplinary character – or as I prefer to put it, “transdisciplinary”. The issues I am addressing in this work are multi-dimensional, involving for instance economic, political and cultural issues, and always involving the relationship between discourse and other elements of social life. So the approach needs to be interdisciplinary. “Trans-disciplinary” research is for me a variety of interdisciplinary research where the objective is to develop one’s theory and methodology through dialogue with other disciplines. For instance, the category of “recontextualization2 which originates in Basil Bernstein’s sociology of pedagogy has itself been “recontextualized” within CDA, has become a category within CDA, through one might say a “translation” of it into established discourse-analytical categories including “genre” and “discourse” (Chouliaraki & Fairclough 1999). The particular issue I will address is changes in “governance” which are taking place on an international scale – changes which are evident in Britain but also in Romania, and which are being disseminated internationally by for instance the European Union. The relevance of this issue here is that they involve questions of dialogue and of the relationship between cooperation and conflict in dialogue, as I will try to show. These changes are sometimes referred to as a move from “government” to “governance”, or from a hierarchical to a network mode of governance. They revolve around the idea of “partnership”, the co-involvement – and cooperation – of the different interests or “players” or “stakeholders” in the governance and regulation of particular public (as well as private) domains. They include what New Labour in Britain at one stage referred to as “joined-up government” – for instance, ensuring cooperation between all relevant agencies (national government, local government, social services, voluntary organisations, business, and so forth) in combating “social exclusion”. They are associated with ideas of “participatory democracy”, and often include the “participation” or “consultation” of citizens who are targeted by or affected by the relevant policies. They are also associated with
“decentralisation” and “devolution” of governance. I’m going to use for convenience the term “partnership governance” for this form of governance (Balloch & Taylor 2001). I think it is important to distinguish at the outset between the strategy for partnership governance and “actually existing” partnership governance. On the one hand, there is a strategy for changing governance in the partnership direction, on the other hand there are rather diverse and uneven forms in which this form of governance is implemented. The strategy for partnership governance has a significantly discursive character – it includes a particular discourse of governance (which the word “governance” is a part of), as well as narratives of past and present issues and problems of governance, and imaginaries for their solution. Actually the situation is more complicated because the move towards partnership governance is controversial – for instance with respect to whether partnerships are really between equals – and there is a proliferation of strategies, discourses and narratives. But I think one can generally identify a dominant strategy. It is clear that in dealing with these changes in governance we are dealing substantively with questions of discourse. First as I said because strategies for change include discourses and narratives. In so far as these strategies are implemented, put into practice, discourses may be “operationalized” – “enacted” as new institutions, new relations between institutions, new procedures, and so forth; ‘inculcated” as new ways of being – new identities; and indeed “materialized” as new ways of organising space and time. But this “operationalization” also involves questions of discourse: the “enactment” of discourses includes their enactment in new forms of communicative interaction, new genres, including new forms of dialogue – and, importantly as I shall argue, new relations between genres; the “inculcation” of discourses includes new communicative styles such as new styles of leaders and managers, including for instance one distinctive “character” of partnership governance – the “facilitator”. So questions of discourse arise both for strategies of partnership governance and their implementation in actual forms of partnership governance (Fairclough 2003, 2005a, 2005b). The significance of discourse is to an extent recognised in literature on change in governance. What discourse analysis can add within transdisciplinary research on this matter is: first, theoretical clarification of relations between discourse and other social elements, including what I just referred to as the “operationalization” of discourses, and the socially constructive effects of discourses; and second, method – ways of analysing texts and interactions. Having said that, I shall not be proposing specific analytical methods for analysing what one might see as the dialectic between cooperation and conflict in dialogue. I think it is fruitful to begin by locating changes in governance within broader processes of social change, in order to contextualize them satisfactorily. This will help in defining coherent objects of research for this research topic on a trans-disciplinary basis, and in defining the particular contribution of discourse analysis to researching these research
Governance, partnership and participation: cooperation and conflict
objects in terms of specifically discursive facets of change in governance, and their relation to these changes overall. So I shall approach dialogue in what may seem – and indeed is - a somewhat circuitous way.
1. Cultural political economy
In my recent research on “transition” in CEE, I have worked with a framework based upon what is being called the “new” or “cultural” political economy (Jessop 2002, Pickles & Smith 1998). Political economy differs from classical economics in asserting that there are non-economic conditions for economies and economic change (Polanyi 1944, Sayer 1995). “Cultural” political economy claims that these conditions are not only political but also cultural, and include discourse: the “cultural turn” is also a turn to discourse. Jessop (2002) is a political economist and a theorist of governance and the state whose version of cultural political economy incorporates CDA, and I have been seeking to develop this approach from a specifically discourse analytical perspective (Fairclough 2005a, 2005b, forthcoming). The versions of cultural political economy I draw upon incorporate the “regulation theory” view that a socio-economic order is constituted through a particular set of relations – a “fix” – between a particular form of economy in the narrow sense and a particular form of governance (a “regime of accumulation” and “a mode of regulation”), but add that the “fix” also includes cultural and discursive elements. A “fix” is an accommodation, a way of articulating together. The key point with respect to socio-economic change is this: it is a matter of change in relations between institutions, and between institutions and the “lifeworld”, which ties economy, governance, culture and discourse together in new ways. As I have already indicated, we need to also bring in strategies: in times of crisis or instability, different social groups develop different and often competing strategies for a new “fix”. From this perspective, the move towards “partnership governance” is regarded as one element in particular strategies for a new “fix”. Let me give a concrete example. The European Union adopted at the Lisbon Council (2000) a “strategic goal”: “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”. In the section of the Lisbon Declaration on “Putting Decisions into Practice”, changes in governance are indicated which are associated with implementation of the strategic goal. The changes envisaged and advocated are partly changes in the relationship between scales
of governance – between the EU scale, the national scale, and the regional scale. There is to be a “new open method of coordination” which allows for a “translation” of EU guidelines, indicators and benchmarks into “national and regional policies” which set targets and adopt measures “taking into account national and regional differences”. But they are also changes towards “partnership governance”:
A fully decentralised approach will be applied in line with the principle of subsidiarity in which the Union, the Member States, the regional and local levels, as well as the social partners and civil society, will be actively involved, using variable forms of partnership. A method of benchmarking best practices on managing change will be devised by the European Commission networking with different providers and users, namely the social partners, companies and NGOs.
There is a double movement here: decentralization, and partnership, where “partnership” suggests cooperation based upon the emulation which is implied in “benchmarking”. So the EU’s strategy for a new “fix” envisages a combination of a “knowledge-based economy”, a modernised European “social model”, and “partnership governance”. It also includes cultural dimensions – cultural values of “social responsibility” (referred to in the Lisbon Declaration with respect to the “social responsibility of the business community”, but in for instance the strategy for combating “social exclusion” with respect to the “social responsibility” of all citizens, including the “socially excluded”), of “flexibility” (for instance in relation to “lifelong learning”), and so forth. “Knowledge-based economy”, “decentralisation” and “partnership” are within the strategy “no more than” discursive elements, elements of an emergent EU discourse – “no more than” in the sense that their implementation, their “operationalization”, is another – and more contingent – matter. They are discursive elements which are worked into a narrative and an imaginary, and an argument, within the Lisbon Declaration. The narrative tells of past and present problems of competitiveness, unemployment and “social exclusion” within the EU, and ties these to an imaginary for solving these problems, and at the same time constructs an argument which legitimizes the strategy and the new “fix” in terms of these problems. Another thing to notice is that the strategy is also a strategy for “re-scaling” – “carving out” an EU scale, and imaging new relations between the EU, national and regional scales. The EU scale and the new scalar relations appertain to the economy, social policy, education, and governance – thus what is imagined at the EU scale includes a “European economy”, a “European social model”, a “European Higher Education Area”, and a European model of governance. “Partnership governance” is envisaged and advocated at each scale – EU, national, and regional.
Governance, partnership and participation: cooperation and conflict
2. Discourse analysis in trans-disciplinary research on partnership governance
Trans-disciplinary research carried out in terms of such a view of cultural political economy will translate the topic of socio-economic change (or political-economic change) into a particular set of research objects. These might include: the emergence of strategies for a new “fix” (such as the EU strategy), contestation between different strategies and the establishment of the hegemony of a particular strategy (again, such as the EU strategy), the dissemination and recontextualization of such a strategy (eg in the case of the Lisbon strategy, at national and regional scales within the EU and candidate countries), and the implementation of such a strategy in the different sites of its recontextualization (as well as at the EU scale). All of these are complex objects of research – ultimately sets of objects of research – but “implementation” is particularly complex. We can see some of this complexity if we consider what is involved in recontextualization: the recontextualization of a strategy is a matter of its insertion into a site with its own distinctive structural properties, historical trajectory and forms of “path-dependency” as some economists put it, and its own pre-existing field of strategies and strategic struggle. One might say for instance that the successful recontextualization and implementation of an “external” strategy depends upon it becoming the “internal” strategy of a group or coalition of social agents and agencies with the power and resources to make it hegemonic and to implement it. This in itself is conditional upon various circumstantial factors – structural, institutional, cultural – and just what the relationship is, for instance in the case of the Lisbon strategy, between the strategy for a new “fix” and the actually existing implemented forms of a new “fix” is also conditional upon circumstances. The chances are for instance that “partnership governance” may appear in markedly different forms in different places. These four broad objects of research are partly objects for discourse analytical research – or to put it differently, discourse analysis can formulate its own particular objects of research within the wider trans-disciplinary research field.
Emergence: the emergence of discourses, narratives, legitimizations as elements of strategies – how for instance new discourses are constituted by articulating together elements of prior discourses. Hegemony: contestation between discourses (narratives, legitimizations) as a part of contestation (hegemonic struggle) between strategies Recontextualization: the recontextualization of discourses (narratives, legitimizations) as part of the recontextualization of strategies – eg the working of new discourses into relations (of complementarity, tension, contestation) with existing discourses (eg the discourse of “partnership governance” with existing discourses of governance and government in Romania); recontextualization as a colonisation/appropriation dialectic (Chouliaraki & Fairclough 1999)
Norman Fairclough Operationalization: the enactment of discourses (eg the discourse of “partnership governance”) as new institutions, new relations between institutions, new practices and procedures; their inculcation in new ways of being, new identities; their materialization in new material forms (eg spatial organisation of public spaces). Operationalization involves the “dialectics of discourse” (Harvey 1996). Crucially, this is partly an intra-discursive dialectic – enactment is partly a relationship between discourses and genres (eg between the discourse of “partnership governance” and new genres – including forms of dialogue – in new institutions and practices of governance, new “genre networks” as the necessary discursive facet of new relations within and between institutions); inculcation is partly a relationship between discourses and styles (eg between the discourse of “partnership governance” and new styles of participation in new forms of interaction and dialogue (new genres), including new styles of managing governance processes).
Notice these are not “stages” but “moments” – for instance recontextualization entails (further) hegemonic struggle in a new place/at a new scale, and possibly the emergence of new “hybrid” strategies (discourses, narratives, legitimizations). Thus discourse-analytical research on “partnership governance” will include these three broad concerns: • discourses, narratives, legitimizations within strategies • dialectical relations between discourses, genres and styles • dialectical relations between discourse and other elements (including material elements) of governance
3. Problems with “partnership governance”: a discourse-analytical perspective
I have referred to “partnership governance” in the implementation of public strategies and policies, but the tendency to shift towards this form of governance is more general – it is also widespread for instance in the governance of organisations, both public (eg educational organisations) and private (eg private businesses). I now want to pick up the point I briefly made earlier about the controversial character of “partnership governance”. Particular implementations of “partnership governance” have been criticized on various grounds. For instance a book edited Balloch & Taylor (2001), discussing partnership in the governance of public services in the UK, asks whether partnership has actually left existing power relationships untouched, whether partnership can work without efforts to break down resistant public service cultures, whether partnerships actually enhance services for the people who are supposed to benefit from them, or dissipates energies in setting up new structures, systems and procedures, and so forth.
Governance, partnership and participation: cooperation and conflict
Let me pick up the point about existing public service cultures briefly in the case of recontextualization of the Lisbon strategy in Romania. There are various diagnoses of cultural aspects of obstacles Romania faces in “transition” and EU integration. A popular one attributes failures to Romanian “mentalities”, often discussed in a universalizing way as if there were a unitary Romanian culture, and generally linked to Romanian history – as the legacy of communism, or longer-term legacies of the past. Another which I find more interesting refers to the importance of what have been called “status groups” in public life (Mungiu-Pippidi 2003), meaning groups which - one might say - personalize relations in public institutions, and operate to distribute benefits and, crucially for our present concerns, information, according to who is included within or excluded from what are sometimes referred to in a derogatory way as these “clans” or “tribes”. Relations and actions and the distribution of benefits are personalized in the sense of being based upon loyalty and indeed “love”, there is what is sometimes referred to as a clientelist relation between members which depends upon past favours as well as the “public family” attachments. There are I think good social reasons why such status groups have been strengthened in Romania since 1990, to do with what a Romanian economist has called the “structural strain” (Dăianu 2000) resulting from problems and policy errors in “transition”. Putting that aside, the dominance of status groups in for instance some areas of higher education presents real obstacles to the implementation of, to take a current preoccupation, the “partnership governance” which is supposed to obtain in the Bologna process. For instance, in terms of information, the Bologna process assumes a transparency of information which is at odds with the hoarding of information which tends to characterize “status groups”. I have consciously taken a somewhat circuitous route to the issue of cooperation and conflict in dialogue, and I hope my reasons for doing so are clear. But now I want to look specifically at this issue with reference to a number of cases.
4. Partnership working
The title of Balloch & Taylor’s book, Partnership Working, points us to the fact that partnership governance is a way of working. There is a continuity between partnership as a mode of governance and partnership as way of working in what Iedema (2003) calls “postbureaucratic organization”, both public and private. Iedema points to a significant shift in the character of work:
Norman Fairclough By engaging workers into sites where they can only survive if they appropriate new ways of speaking and self-presenting, post-bureaucratic organization appears to displace organizational criteria that stipulate what is good work from “doing work” to “talking work”. Work performance, in this emerging climate, is thus not measured on the strength of work outcomes alone, but is assessed on the strength of workers” ability to work, speak and self-present in ways that are demonstrably or rhetorically outcome-oriented and outcome-productive.
Moreover, the outcome Iedema is referring to with respect to his analysis of partnership governance and working is knowledge – knowledge which is operationalized as plans, procedures, projects and so forth. What this indicates is that two central components of the EU strategy for a new “fix” which I discussed above are not arbitrarily articulated together – partnership governance and working are ways of governing and working which correspond to the character of the “knowledge-based economy”, in that they enable the central innovation of the “knowledge-based economy”, the intensification of incorporation of knowledge in new products and services. Viewing partnership governance and working as oriented to the production of knowledge outcomes provides a particular perspective upon and contextualization of cooperation and conflict in dialogue. I want to refer to some of the dialogue which Iedema discusses in his book, which comes from a series of meetings about the renovation of a health care facility in New South Wales, Australia. The planning process was carried out in accordance with the guidelines of the NSW Department of Health, which stipulate the involvement of government, community and other stakeholders in large projects. They require the presence at these meetings of representatives from the health department and local area health service, engineers, suppliers, architects, members of the user community (in this case, medical clinicians and managers – though not patients), and – crucially - a planner to “facilitate” the process. The potential for conflict is clear – especially given differences in interests and concerns between the users of the new facility and the Health department officials. But all the stakeholders in these partnership encounters are expected to recognise the financial, regulatory and material constraints upon the project. The planner is expected to produce an outcome which all the stakeholders can subscribe to (Iedema 2003: 112-113). In one meeting which Iedema discusses (2003: 133-147), an emergent conflict is managed by the planner to produce a successful and cooperative outcome. Early in the meeting, the Health Department official (represented as GB, “Government Bureaucrat”, in the transcript) shows his anxiety to get on with the project “as quick as possible now that the department has set aside this money and decision was made to do it”. He appears, as Iedema notes, to regard the involvement of the user community as an unnecessary formality, in spite of the official requirement to do so. The planner (represented as SP, “Senior Planner”) begins to show his reservations:
Governance, partnership and participation: cooperation and conflict SP- Now can I can I just John can I just ask a couple of things, one is that, at least try and fill in some gaps in history here, um, there are some other players now, in the game, is that right, in 1992 there were different people, I’m talking about the medical side of the thing, uh, … GB- Yeah, the key to [that] SP[Um, do we] have any knowledge of their feelings with respect to the current plans and stuff like that GB- They love the current plan SP- Ah! [That’s … uh positive] GB[Huhuh, um,] the director of nurses, sorry the Nursing Unit Manger is consistent SP- So she is she was involved … GB- No no no, he he SP- He, sorry,
At this stage, it is GB who is authoritative, whereas SP “enacts tentativeness” as Iedema puts it – through questions, hesitation devices and repetitions, addressing GB by his first name. Gradually however the SP becomes less tentative and more assertive. For instance:
SP- So, in terms of the guideline, what we would need have to do then is demonstrate that of a number of ways of configuring an addition to an existing building that is the best one GB- Yeah SP- We’d also have to look at the no-build option, which they always put into these things, which basically says “can we do nothing and get away with it”, and we would fairly quickly answer that’s not on ..
The “no-build option” is exactly what GB is afraid of, and in mentioning it, Iedema suggests, SP has “lifted the veil on his preparedness to stand up against the priorities of the bureaucrat”. The tension comes to a head in the following:
SP- And so … yeah, then we would look at whether or not there’s other genuine ways of configuring it, but what I’m saying is that I, well, we don’t really want to go through a process of prolonging that exercise, but we do need to have… GB- Proof
Iedema suggests that SP would have finished his sentence with something like “a fair consultative process”, but GB interrupts him with “proof”, which in this context refers to financial legitimation. The dialogue goes on:
SP- Proof well what will happen is, people over in [health department] are going to look at it and say “can you convince us that this is still the best way to solve the problem of adding on to an existing building, you know, cost efficient way”, and I think that’s really what we have to address, now as I said, there are quite specific things we need to do, we need to look at the service implications and since 1992 there has been a strategic master plan or something like that about the […] health services in the area, that has to be looked at I think, Maria did you find anything that was there, I don’t know, [these are things] GB[I’ve I’ve] I’ve got some files in my office SP- Have you, ok. So we should perhaps gather all that junk together and see what there is.
Norman Fairclough We will have to go back to shareholders, whatever we do, both in the Department I think and in the hospital, and at least run our ideas past, to this stage again GB- Hmhm. SP- So we’ll have to have some meetings with those people
SP goes along with GB’s assessment that financial “proof” is needed but then steers the dialogue back to stakeholders. GB does not challenge this. By not contesting GB’s position directly, questioning at some points rather than asserting, and various other interactional devices, SP avoids potential conflict, gradually establishes his authority, and achieves an outcome which those present can go along with, even if it does not really satisfy them. Conflicts do develop in these meetings, but the shared orientation of stakeholders to an outcome (and avoiding the “no-build” option) as well as the brief of the planner to produce an outcome that all stakeholders can go along with, means that differences of interest and the contests for power which they lead to tend to be resolved with limited resort of conflict. Another important aspect of the move towards partnership governance and working is that it involves new relationships between genres. Iedema refers to this issue in terms of the new relationships which are set up between spoken interaction and written documents, in which spoken interaction assumes a greater relative salience, but where nevertheless the dynamics of power and differences of interest extend from meetings into the production of minutes and back again, and from the series of meetings into the final report which the planner produces for the health authority. We can see this as part of what I call a “genre chain” or “network”, interconnected genres which are systematically related to each other, between which there are systematic relations of recontextualization such that the dialogue of a meeting is transformed in more or less predictable ways into minutes and reports. The dialogue within a particular “partnership event”, as we might call it, is informed by the knowledge of participants of how it is positioned within a genre chain. Power is exercised not only in particular types of event but across chains of events which are shaped by relatively stabilized and institutionalized genre chains, and the balance between cooperation and conflict in negotiating differences of interest is conditional upon the chain of events and the genre chain, not just the particular event. We should also bear in mind Bourdieu’s (Bourdieu & Wacquant 1992) view that what happens in dialogue between diverse stakeholders (his example is rather different however - a TV debate between different sorts of expert on an election result) depends upon the pre-structured relationships between the fields and institutions which participants represent, which determines the interactional resources they bring to dialogue. This would for instance suggest that in many circumstances “users” as stakeholders will tend to be marginalized. Nevertheless, going back to Iedema’s example, the quiet assertion of authority by SP is a skilled interactional accomplishment, and outcomes depend on what is locally accomplished interactionally, as well as pre-structured relations between fields, institutions, procedures and genres.
Governance, partnership and participation: cooperation and conflict
5. Participation troubles
I want to turn finally to the “participation” of citizens who are targeted or affected by forms of partnership governance. As I indicated earlier, it is characteristic for partnership governance to envisage forms of “participation” or “consultation”, but this is what has perhaps been seen as the most problematic in terms of the gap between rhetoric and reality. I shall refer to the case of the British Government’s Farm Scale Evaluation programme for genetically modified (GM) crops (Fairclough, Pardoe & Szerszynski forthcoming). The British Government decided on a series of trials to assess the environmental effects of a range of GM crops. The locations for these trials were determined by a specialist government scientific committee in consultation with representatives of the GM crop industry. Locations were publicly announced some time before planting, and one option open to a local council was to organise a public meeting to inform local people about the trials. The extract I shall comment on is taken from one such meeting. It is clear that the Government took a very limited view of public participation in the crop trials process. In some of the Ministry’s publicity on the Farm Scale Evaluation, one finds:
Q: What is being done to involve people with sites in their locality in the Farm Scale Evaluation programme? The Government involves local people in the Farm Scale Evaluation (FSE) process by providing both information about the release and an opportunity for the public to comment on the safety assessments that have been made.
In this representation of participation, the verb “involve” is used transitively (cp involve themselves”, “get involved”) with the Government as subject and “(local) people” as object – public “involvement” is represented as managed or orchestrated by the Government, and is limited to the Government “providing” both “information” and an “opportunity” for the public to “comment”. The only instance of the public as actor in of a verbal process (“comment”) in an embedded clause within a subordinate clause in which the Government is actor (it is also actor in the main clause).
Public meetings were informed by this limited official view of participation. In the specific case I shall discuss, the meeting was in two parts: opening statements from a Ministry official, a representative of a GM crop company, and a representative of an NGO, the Soil Association; questions from members of the audience to the speakers. Allowable contributions to the second part were prescribed by the person chairing the meeting as “questions” in which questioners give their names, the village or organisation they are from, and indicate which of the speakers the question is directed to. People were also asked to speak one at a time and not interrupt. The Chair tried to control contributions which deviated from these rules at various points in the meeting – where people don’t identify their village or organisation, and where they make “statements” rather than ask “questions”. In some places, audience members represent themselves as “asking questions” but are actually making statements. One can also see an apparent strategic use of questions to perform other speech acts, for instance in one exceptionally conflictual case: “Can I ask our Money Making Crop Grower a basic question. Do you believe in democracy?” Some audience members seemed to have a view of the nature of this event which differed from the official view. This came across in their representations of the event and the whole decision-making process on crop trials, and is partly evident in the verbs that were used (eg “consult” as opposed to “involve”), and partly in different assumptions about the relationship between public opinion and policy action. For instance, one audience member refers to a referendum of local people in which a clear majority expressed their opposition to the crop trial as if that ought to determine whether or not the trial should go ahead - “you’re not listening”, he said. A central difference was that while the official view of the event was that it was about giving “information”, many audience members saw the event in terms of getting “action”. So the government official could answer the complaint by saying “we are listening to you”, but there seem to be different understandings of what this implies – listening and acting upon what is heard, or listening and “noting” what is heard (and generally then ignoring it). These differences are apparent in what one might describe as “genre struggles” within the meeting. Specifically, there are frequent struggles over whether the public are allowed to provide information and to comment or only to ask questions, and over whether they can respond to the answers given by the panel. The chairperson may articulate rules for the event and demand conformity to these, yet people may insert comments or information as “givens” (or “presuppositions”) within a question. Equally, the audience may demand that members of the panel answer a question.
Governance, partnership and participation: cooperation and conflict
Here is one example:
M1: There are two or three problems or concerns really. One really is the lack of time the parish has been given with respect of when we know. We don’t know when the site is to be. We only know when the site is to be drilled. The County Council has put a motion through that we would ask DEFRA to let us know when the site is agreed, and then we could have a meeting like this if you like before it all gets out of hand. The other thing is there’s a massive increase in nose problems through spores that are in the air now. Years ago we used to have hay fever problems at hay time, now we seem to get them - Is there any difference between the spores of genetically modified crops and the conventional crop? I think those are two major concerns that locally are causing problems. I don’t know whether there’s an answer to both but there certainly is an answer in time delay and there may be an answer to the other. M2: Could I just make a point as well? I mean the first part of that, this year the first we knew about these crops was in the newspaper. M1: Exactly. M2: And when we did draw some information off the Internet, it was the day they’d stated for sowing. So that’s when the Parish Council knewM1: The County Council has asked the Government to – if we can know – when the site is decided upon then we need the information. And I think that will give us a reasonable length of time to evaluate whether it is or isn’t going to be a problem. Government Official: Can I [unclear word]. Well, I think that I said that our practice is to write to all Parish Councils when a trial site is proposed and we did thatM1: No, that isn’t what happenedGovernment Official: Could I just say what we do? [Extended account of the notification procedure omitted.] So we do our very best to make sure that the people know. M1: At what point do you know which site you are going to use?
M1 begins by making statements – not asking questions - about the two “problems or concerns”, and then asking a question about the second of them. Another shift away from the “rules” of such meetings is that M1 and M2 are working collaboratively to elaborate the first problem, against the normative expectation of “one speaker at a time”. Furthermore, M1 interrupts the government official’s response, challenging what he is saying, and then continues in direct dialogue with him by asking a further question, rather than only addressing questions “through the chair” as the “rules” would require. Moreover, M1 would seem to be asking for more than answers to questions; that is, more than information, he would seem to be asking for solutions to problems – the “answer in time delay” he is asking for is a change in the official procedure. Such exchanges are frequent in this and similar meetings: audience members, usually unostentatiously but persistently, breach the “rules” about “questions” to get across the points and criticisms and challenges they want to get across. As I suggested, I think this is a case where the official procedure takes a narrow view of participation, where the only active option for citizens is to “comment” – which in practice means no more than written comments on the part of individuals. But many of the citizens attending public meetings assume that they are an occasion for participation in a richer
sense – an occasion to try to get action and change. In general, their efforts to circumvent the restrictions on allowable contributions are one might say relatively cooperative and, as I said about the example I have just discussed, unostentatious. But there are points in the meetings where conflict emerges:
F1: My name is [name] and I am a voluntary campaigner based in [name of town] for [name of NGO] and I have devoted much of the last year to campaigning and finding out all about GM crops. I have a simple question … I would like umm the two speakers from DEFRA & GM crop & herbicide company tonight, to supply me, by speaking to you all, the names and reference numbers of any independent research to deal with safety, as regards these two crops, maize and oil seed rape. This is for example: umm, if I was to breathe in the pollen, could they tell me please what tests have been done by independent scientists to say whether that will leave me totally healthy or whether there may be some risk; if a cow was to eat some grass, upon which the pollen had dropped in its short life, coming from these crops. Can we say that these things have been tested, to see the result of that? That sort of thing. Thanks very much. Audience: [applause] Industry representative: Umm, yes. I can answer that question. The answer, when it comes down to independent research, umm I can’t give you an answer to that. To my knowledge I’m not aware of independent research. I am aware of a lot of research that has been done both by our company and by other companies, which has been looked at independently. All the results have been looked at independently, on a number of occasions, they umm, both in this country and in other countries around the world. And that is the only reason why we are allowed to grow these things in this country. So I may not be able to answer your question in terms of independent research, but certainly this information that has been presented has been looked at independently, yes. F1: Have you got the research papers please, so I can read them too? … Can I go on the internet, and actually read this information. This is what I want to be able to do. Industry representative: Okay, if you’re talking about maize you can certainly look on our Internet or on, come to that DEFRA’s Internet, and look at what safety information there. Yes. And there is safety information in there. Chair: All right, next question please. [While the chair asks for the next question, members of the audience point out that the question has not been answered by the government representative. They ask for him to answer it. It becomes evident that the Government representative is not going to answer. The chair still asks for the next question. F1 returns to the microphone.] F1: I have been writing to the Government, at least once a month for seven months, and before that quite frequently. The Department of the Environment, Margaret Beckett, Michael Meacher. Written to in parliament, at one or two addresses that I’ve had for them. I have never had a reply other than the standard reply, which are just like [the industry representative] kindly said. Years, dossiers full of it. never have they answered my question with one research paper number or title. I do not believe this exists. [Loud 6 second applause. The chair invites another question.]
This intervention begins cooperatively enough: the speaker identifies herself, and asks a question, though it is a question which includes a request for references. The speaker does, politely, break the rules with a follow-up question to the Industry Representatives reply. What is interesting here is that she is not just asking for information, she is asking for
Governance, partnership and participation: cooperation and conflict
references to research papers so that she can read them herself – she doesn’t get them, and one gets the sense that the Industry Representative fails to grasp that this citizen actually wants to get into the science – that, conventionally, is for the scientific experts, not for citizens. The point of emergence of conflict is just summed up here – it is, notably, initiated by the audience in demanding that the Government representative also answer the question. It is when it becomes apparent that he is not going to answer the question that the questioner in a sense briefly takes over the meeting, no longer asking questions, but recounting her own failed attempts to get access to scientific evidence which – in a final implicit accusation of bad faith – she know believes does not exist. Again, the audience contributes to this moment of conflict, this small confrontation or, to romanticize, minor insurgency. But it is quickly over – the chairman moves on. Conflict momentarily erupts, but cooperation is smoothly reinstituted.
Both of the examples I have discussed come from forms of dialogical interaction which are constituent elements of more elaborate procedures which are legitimized in terms of ensuring the participation or consultation of all relevant “stakeholders”, their coinvolvement in forms of “partnership”. Recent changes in forms of governance have produced many procedures of a broadly similar sort, though I should add that “partnership governance” appears in many different forms (Balloch & Taylor 2001). On the face of it, they are an attractive alternative to the opaque exercise of bureaucratic authority, and also perhaps attractive in appearing to resolve differences of interest through cooperation rather than conflict. Yet they have given rise to widespread concerns about democracy. There are claims that unequal relations of power have not been fundamentally changed despite the rhetoric of “partnership” and “participation”; that these apparently open and transparent procedures contribute to weakening forms of civic action, campaigning and dispute which are integral to healthy democratic societies; and that “partnership governance” is part of an elaborate and increasingly international battery of social technologies for imposing but simultaneously legitimizing a neo-liberal “fix” of a fundamentally undemocratic character. “Partnership”, “participation” and indeed “dialogue” itself have been seen – in New Labour Britain for instance – as some of the “weasel words” which are prominent in the “spin” which is put on government policies whose real substance is neo-liberal, but which have to be given a progressive patina to secure the compliance of citizens and voters (Hall 2003). The frustrations arising are illustrated for instance in the case of GM crops – direct action in
the form of destroying trial crop sites was legitimized in terms of the absence of any real democratic debate on this issue. On the other hand, one might say that whatever the real limits and frustrations of “partnership governance”, it does put into social circulation a model for a sort of dialogical democracy, and opens a new terrain for imminent critique – around the gap between promise and delivery. A final comment on democracy, cooperation and conflict. Democratic politics requires dialogue between conflicting interests, and necessarily entails conflict, argument, dispute within dialogue. It also requires a willingness to accommodate to agreed forms and procedures for engaging in dialogue, and seeking to reconcile or negotiate conflicting interests, hence a basis of cooperation. The danger of “partnership governance” is that it sometimes seems to construe guarantees of inclusion and participation of all interested parties as an alternative to vigorous debate and conflict between conflicting positions and interests. Cooperation may be an outcome of such debate, as well as in a sense – as I have indicated – a precondition. But to institutionalize procedures with financial and other inducements to avoid conflict and achieve cooperation will tend to allow the powerful to prevail with minimal opposition through a process of co-option, and rather than removing conflicts of position and interest may well lead to them being expressed in more explosive and less democratic forms, as well as adding to the reduced participation and interest in politics which “partnership governance” is often claimed to be a partial solution to.
Governance, partnership and participation: cooperation and conflict References Balloch, S. & Taylor, M. (eds.) (2001): Partnership Working. – Bristol: The Policy Press. Bourdieu, P. & Wacquant, L. (1992): Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. – Cambridge: Polity Press. Chouliaraki, L. & Fairclough, N. (1999): Discourse in Late Modernity Edinburgh. – Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Dăianu, D. (2000): Încotro se îndreaptă ţările postcomuniste? – Bucharest: Polirom. Fairclough, N. (2003): Analyzing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. – London: Routledge. – (2005a): Critical Discourse Analysis, Organizational Discourse, and Organizational Change. – Organization Studies 26, 915-939. – (2005b): Critical Discourse Analysis. – Marges Linguistiques 9, 7694. – (forthcoming): Discourse in Processes of Social Change: “Transition” Central and Eastern Europe. – Journal of Language and Politics. Fairclough, N., Pardoe, S. & Szerszynski, B. (forthcoming): Critical discourse analysis and citizenship. – In: H. Hausendorf & A. Bora (eds.):Analyzing Citizenship Talk. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Hall, S. (2003): New Labour’s Double-Shuffle. – Soundings 25, 25-47. Harvey, D. (1996): Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. – Oxford: Blackwell. Iedema, R. (2003): Discourses of Post-Bureaucratic Organization. – Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Jessop, B. (2002): The Future of the Capitalist State. – Cambridge: Polity Press. Mungiu-Pippidi, A. (2003): Politica după comunism. – Bucharest: Humanitas. Pickles, J. & Smith, A. (1998): Theorising Transition: the Political Economy of Post-Communist Transformations. – London: Routledge. Polanyi, K. (1944): The Great Transformation. – Boston: Beacon Press. Sayer, A. (1995): Radical Political Economy. – Oxford: Blackwell.
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