Published on April 13, 2008
Pressure Politics and policy networks: Pressure Politics and policy networks Alistair Cole Debates around policy networks: Debates around policy networks At the heart of the governance approach is the need to capture inter-organisational relationships, rather than to focus on organisations per se. Corporatist analysis represents one attempt to systematise interdependent relationships. Another effort at conceptualisation that explicitly shares the diagnostic of state restructuring is that of the policy networks school, which has gained ground in European political science in recent years. Its advocates (Benson (1982), Rhodes (1986, 1997), Richardson and Jordon (1979), Marsh and Smith (2000)) claim that it provides a framework for operationalising and observing the interdependent relationships that it identifies as lying at the heart of modern governance. State actors are constrained to cooperate with non-state decision-makers in a growing number of policy sectors, such as education, housing, social policy and the environment. Policy Networks or networking?: Policy Networks or networking? Upon a close reading of the literature, four principal themes emerge from policy network analysis that have a general applicability. First, a network is a regularised pattern of relationships between individuals or across institutions. Networks and networking... Policy Networks: a new pluralism? : Policy Networks: a new pluralism? Second, policy networks consist of a cluster or complex of organisations connected to each other by resource dependencies: organisations form networks because they are dependent upon each other. Network theory can be interpreted as a refinement of the pluralist analysis of the political process, whereby decision-making systems are responsive to fragmented groups. Policy Networks and sectors: Policy Networks and sectors Third, the policy networks literature emphasises the importance of policy sectors that structure interactions. This dimension of network analysis is strongly emphasised by Marsh and Rhodes (1992), for example, who contrast the open interactions involved in economic policy‑making, and the closed technical world of civil engineering. There are similarities with the orthodox model of public policy as conceptualised by Jobert and Muller (1987) in France and for whom the emergence of cohesive policy sectors is the organisational response to the division of labour in the classic model of government. Sector is taken by Jobert and Muller to be synonymous with profession, and professional influences figure prominently in the Marsh and Rhodes model as well. Policy Sectors 2: Policy Sectors 2 Rarely does the ontologically plural nature of governance appear more clearly than in relation to the concept of sector. UK theorists such as Rhodes (1997) link governance to the self-organising networks that govern distinct policy sectors such as education, economic development, health, transport or agriculture. These sectors each contain specific actor constellations and are inhabited by organisations that are dependent upon each other. In this account, governance is closely linked to the operation of policy sectors and to the importance of the professional expertise therein. From this perspective, the dynamics in economic development, welfare or education are contingent upon the structural qualities of the sectors concerned, or, with a weaker definition, upon the structural context within which games are played or prevailing ideas or discursive registers diffused. Policy Sectors 3: Policy Sectors 3 The importance of sectoral forms of governance is evidenced in multi-national structures such as the European Union. The European policy process is highly sectoralised, with close linkages between the general directorates of the European Commission, the sectoral meetings of the Council of Ministers and the specialized professional bodies containing recognized expertise in any given field (Beech, 2005). The logic of these exchanges is broadly functional. Complex societies produce more autonomy for groups and private interests that can resist attempts to steer from central governors. The EU is, arguably the only level where functional policies relevant to the operation of the Single Market can be regulated. But the EU lacks the qualities of authoritative coordination and arbitration of a nation-state vested with legitimacy to coordinate complex activities. Cross-sectoral governance: Cross-sectoral governance Other accounts draw very different conclusions about the pertinence of sector as a guide to contemporary governance. Fine-grained studies of localities and regions, for example, emphasise the cross-sectoral nature of much contemporary governance. The territorial forms of governance uncovered by Pasquier, Simoulin and Weisbein (2007) are characterized by a pooling of expertise across strict professional boundaries, by the democratization of expertise, by the productive interactions between associations, professional bodies and political authorities. Policy communities and issue networks: Policy communities and issue networks Finally, several writers operate a distinction between tightly organised professional policy communities and much looser issue networks. While policy communities are tight self-regulating networks, issue networks are much looser ideational coalitions which seek to influence the agenda. There are close to the Advocacy coalition framework Group theories of politics and power: Group theories of politics and power . In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, for example, most democratic theorists regard the freedom to organise interests into groups as a fundamental prerequisite for the operation of liberal democracy. Comparing France and the US is illustrative in this respect. For sound historical reasons, prevailing French theoretical frameworks - equating democracy with a Rousseauan general will - have been less inclined to accept groups as a legitimate expression of the democratic process. In the French republican tradition, the state is held to be superior to the total of competing interests; groups exist in a subordinate relationship with the state. In the US, by contrast, a system of freely competing interest groups is held to be synonymous with democracy itself: the state prefers to see itself as a referee between the key interests in society. The French and American examples provide two differing views of liberal democracy: in the first the people’s representatives (and the state) express the general will; in the second, the popular will emerges as the result of the confrontation of conflicting private interests. These historical, cultural and political traditions affect the role of groups and patterns of group-state relations in both countries. Pluralism and Corporatism: Pluralism and Corporatism Within Europe, two ideal-type models of state-group relations (and their adjectival extensions) have prevailed in the academic literature on interest groups. The pluralist model of state-group relations was refined in the United states at the turn of the century. Within the US, interest groups are seen as the very essence of pluralist democracy. The doctrine of pluralism was given its fullest elaboration by A.F.Bentley: who asserted that everything could be understood in terms of the interaction of groups. Central to Bentley's thesis was that groups could all be placed on the same equal footing. This thesis was restated fifty years later by D.Truman. Whereas in classical democratic theory, the individual lay at the basis of political organisation, according to the pluralists, the base unit was now the group. The interaction of groups was good for democracy. Pluralist models of power: Pluralist models of power Because individuals are members of several groups, there would tend in practice to be compromise between them, and social consensus would result. Pluralism presupposes a fragmented institutional environment, with multiple access points and institutional arenas: as in the EU and the US federal system. Thus, pluralism describes not only competing groups, but also plural institutions within the State. Pluralism is also about power: Dahl’s famous study of community power – Who Governs – being the most famous case study of this (famously opposed by elitists such as C. Wright Mills). Corporatism and neo-corporatism: Corporatism and neo-corporatism The corporatist model describes a pattern of state-group relations within which groups are fully integrated into the machinery of the state and where relations between groups are largely non-competitive. In fact, these are two ideal-types: even in the most ‘pluralist’ states, such as the US, the state has to define the parameters of group action. All states define certain groups as being beyond the pale of legitimate interests: most notably, those which espouse violent methods. Corporatism, or neo-corporatism can be defined as a pattern of group-state relations, where the state engages in very close cooperation with representatives of Labour and Capital in making economic policy. Groups do not compete with each other, as much as cooperate closely in their mutual interest. This is typified notably by: collective wage agreements negotiated between the state, employers and the Unions; the representation of capital and labour on key policy-making c/ttees; the existence of one single powerful Labour and Employers federations; the existence of closed shops and compulsory membership. Schmitter Model: Schmitter Model The Schmitter model of neo-corporatism is the most complex. The model lays emphasis of the role of two key economic interests – business and labour – but also on the role of the State as an independent actor, in some formulations with an overarching co-ordinating role. Neo-corporatism is not a free interplay of interests, but a tightly co-ordinated tripartite relationship. Schmitter and Lehmbruch (1979) defined neo‑corporatism in terms of a number of principles: non‑competition between groups recognition of the legitimacy of groups by the central state, giving the public authority influence in determining who is in and who is out. the representational monopoly of the single group, qualified to represent the interests of a sector compulsory membership of professional groups, giving the latter real authority to speak in the name of their members. (Schmitter and Lehmbruch, 1979). Neo-corporatism: Neo-corporatism In the corporatist schema, groups do not compete with each other, as much as co-operate closely in their mutual interest. This is typified notably by national collective wage agreements negotiated between the state, employers and the unions; by the representation of capital and labour on key policy-making committees; by the existence of single powerful labour and employers federations; and by the existence of closed shops and compulsory membership. In the corporatist category, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Norway are forwarded as examples where neo‑corporatism might be said to exist: there is some evidence, however, that even in these countries, older style corporatist arrangements have been weakened by economic recession since the late 1970s. But even in countries which are not ‘corporatist’, certain vestiges of corporatist practices subsist: typically, the state establishes a range of committees upon which the main interests are invited to serve. The state occupies a powerful position because it is able to decide which groups are ‘representative’ of a particular sector. These arrangements benefit the group in relation to its rivals. Business and models of business influence : Business and models of business influence One of the arguments against pluralism: it underplays the structural distribution of powers in capitalist democracies in favour of business. Business interests are often, usually cast as the most powerful set of interests in European societies – and even more so in the US, where most of the models of business influence emerge from. A powerful employers association usually represents business… though large firms will also operate an independent players. Employers Associations vary in their structure from one country to another. In some countries, there will be only one Employers federation representing the whole of business: this is the case in Britain with the CBI. In other countries, employers will be represented in different organisations. In Germany, for instance, the two main organisations are the BDA (representing small and large businesses) and the BDI (large industrialists). In France, the MEDEF represents large firms, the CGPME middle-sized firms and the UPA small artisans. Business interests are also represented at a local level through the chambers of commerce. Employers associations and sectors : Employers associations and sectors Employers federations are most effective if united, but they are likely to represent conflicting industrial sectors within their midst. The extent to which governments attempt to draw in Employers associations into decision-making, especially over the economy, varies between countries, although no government can ignore them. In all capitalist countries, large firms (especially multinational firms) will have automatic access to the government, whether or not they exercise their influence through an employer’s federation. But individual firms will often act on their own, sometimes against the Employers federation. In Italy, for instance, a company such as Fiat can demand access to the government, on account of the economic muscle it wields. In France, there are close, interlocking networks between state and business actors, often conceived as forming part of a unified politico-administrative elite. Europeanisation of business interest; both via UNICE and sectoral associations Fractions of Capital: Fractions of Capital It is a mistake to conceive of capital as a unified interest, in a Marxist sense. Competition occurs between economic interests different economic sectors: between those representing financial and industrial capitalism: in the UK, for instance, tensions between the CBI and the City of London are often rife, as the interests of manufacturing and financial capitalism do not always coincide. Business has a powerful voice but it is rarely a unified one. Although employers seek to present a united front, there are many sources of internal pressure: between small and big businesses, between competitive and closed sectors, between conservative and liberal employers, etc. The vital economic role performed by the larger companies’ places them in a particularly advantageous bargaining position with the government ‑ especially as the government will identify its aims with its industrial ‘national champions’. Models of Business influence: Models of Business influence Classical marxism, with its emphasis on economic determinism and the sub-structure. In the classic Marxist schema, capitalist interests determine everything: political institutions are merely epiphenomena: the State is the executive committee of the ruling class. In more refined versions, such as that formulated by Gramsci, the ruling class will exercise a hegemonic influence, using ideas and common-sense to underpin its power. But the result is the same: in capitalist systems, business interests exercise the predominant role, subjugating even the state.. some versions of neo-pluralism also emphasis the strategic advantages of business. In the original Dahl formulation of pluralism, power is broadly dispersed across society. There is no overarching elite, as policy formulation is highly complex. There are no lasting winners: societal interests will broadly even themselves out over time. Policy is too complex to allow any one interest to prevail indefinitely. In neo-pluralism, societies are complex and there is interaction between interests, but business interests have more resources than any other and will win most of the time. theories of hyper-globalisation underline the importance of new forms of business influence: notably the role performed by trans-national corporations. Contemporary states are marginalised by the operation of international markets and the strategies of trans-national corporations. The Professions/Models of professionalisation : The Professions/Models of professionalisation The role of the professions is central to any group based theory of politics. Professional associations of lawyers, doctors, architects, engineers and so on can often exercise a considerable measure of influence. This is because their expertise within their own sphere is considerable and governments value their co-operation. Any government will have only limited intellectual and policy-specific resources at its disposal. Good relations with professional associations are important for all governments. Professional associations often contain more expertise within their ranks than government itself: after all, who knows more about the law than lawyers? Or the requirements of health policy than doctors? Governments value good relations because they groups have expertise which is useful to governments when formulating and implementing policy. On occasion, interest groups actually substitute for the government in carrying out government functions. Thus, in the UK, the law society administers legal aid. There are powerful arguments about the nature of contemporary societies; the role of complexity therein; the nature of agenda-setting that explain the power of the key professions. Policy communities:UK: Policy communities:UK There have been several attempts to capture these phenomena: In the UK tradition, the notion of closed policy communities were developed by Rhodes, Marsh and other to describe these forms of elite policy-making. Policy communities are elitist forms of policy-making, bringing together two key types of actor: representatives of key professions and ranking civil servants/bureaucrats. The community relies on the notion of policy sector, as a definable field of action for public policy, separated by other sector by breaks in ‘resource dependencies’. This version of policy-making is closed and secretive: officials and professionals make policy in secret, away from democratic scrutiny. No one, in normal circumstances, has the power to challenge such arrangements: politicians can, in certain circumstances, but they lack the expertise and the motivation. Iron Triangles:US: Iron Triangles:US The iron triangle, as developed in the US, is an earlier version of this: policy-making is highly sectorised. There are alliances between three key actors: congressional committees, professionals, and bureaucrats. These three logics – professional, political and bureaucratic – can come together in the pursuit of particular policy lines over others. It can be very difficult to outside groups to challenge such compacts. What matters is the network/ community comprised by these professional colaitions. Policy –making is a form of private government: excluding external influences and public opinion. Sectoral Corporatism:France: Sectoral Corporatism:France Theories emphasising the importance of the role of the professions include: sectoral corporatism (Pierre Muller and Bruno Jobert), whereby the State and leading professions co-manage public policy./ There is a strong argument that a French-style corporatism best captures the French situation (Jobert and Muller, 1987; Mény and Thoenig, 1989). The French case is characterised by certain corporatist features, notably the institutional incorporation of the main social partners (employers and trade unions) into the state, notably via the tripartite system. The specific character of the French model relates to its strong public sector corporatism and its pattern of representing interests within the state. The French system of the corps gives French corporatism a stato-centrist coloration absent in other European nations. The role of grands corps (especially the mining, bridges and highways, rural engineering corps) surfaces in numerous public policy studies. Separate studies have highlighted the importance of engineers from the bridges and highways corps in urban policy in the 1960s and 1970s (Thoenig, 1973); that of mining engineers in energy policy (Cohen, 1988), and that of arms engineers in civil aviation (Muller 1989). New Social Movements: New Social Movements French sociologists conceptualise social movements much more than they do groups (Neveu, 2002). For Alain Touraine, social movements are structures between the individual and the state that seek to change society (Touraine, 1994). The labour movement is the original social movement and most associations during the early 20th century were created as part of this broader class-based movement. The most spectacular new associations that have emerged since the 1980s are explicitly focussed on issues of citizenship, democracy and participation or alternative visions of society (altermondialisme). They are suspicious of the state and of traditional political parties, and see themselves as actors of social change. New social movement activity since the 1980s has centred on anti-racism, human rights, defending the unemployed, the rights of immigrants, gay rights, the defence of the homeless, the environment, or women’s rights. Most of these social movements are focussed upon gaining access to French society on behalf of previously excluded groups, such as the homeless, the socially excluded or immigrants. Some movements contest the underlying foundations of global capitalist society as it currently functions. The anti-globalisation (altermondialiste) movement in particular has become a major force in Europe, including in France. From a constructivist perspective, the success of groups such as ATTAC or individuals such as José Bové derives from a combination of accepted collective action registers on the French left and clever strategic positioning. Direct action tactics (such as unearthing fields of GM crops) are easily understood, as are discursive registers that play on a broader fear of economic globalisation and international free trade. These anti-globalisation groups have undoubtedly influenced the climate within which French politics is carried out and have created a major headache for the main left-wing party, the Socialist Party. NSMs and parties: NSMs and parties The rise of these various new social movements illustrate the weakening of the mediating role of political parties (Haegel, 2007). Unlike in Britain and Germany, where environmental and anti-nuclear movements wreaked havoc on the parties of the left, the French party system long remained impermeable to the disruptions of the new social movement politics of the 1970s and early 1980s. Today’s new social movements usually present themselves as rivals to political parties, though a number have strong links with the resurgent far-left (for example Agir Chomage with the LCR) (Wolfreys, 2003). The division between new social movements and the mainstream left has been deepened by the success of the anti-globalisation (‘alter-mondialiste’) movement and charismatic personalities such as Jose Bové. The ‘alter-mondialiste’ universe is much closer to the Bové, or to the LCR than to the traditional left parties such as the PCF or PS (Agrikoliansky, Fillieule and Mayer (2005). Europeanisation of State-Group relations: Europeanisation of State-Group relations In one interpretation, there has been a profound transformation in state-group relations in the light of European integration. Europeanisation has redistributed the cards amongst existing domestic-level actors. It has encouraged an unbundling of the close relations between the state and economic interests that was a core feature of the state-centric model. It has disrupted older models of corporatist co-management, for example in agriculture (Saurugger, 2003) It has created new degrees of freedom for French firms, associations, new social movements, even local and regional authorities. It has lessened the dependency of all these actors upon the central state. After a slow start, French interest groups have become more proficient at professional lobbying, and have learnt how to defend their interests in Brussels (Grossman, 2002). Europeanisation of State-Group relations: Europeanisation of State-Group relations Insofar as it presides a regulatory regime (rather than engaging in costly distributive politics) the European Commission interacts directly with leading economic interests that operate within the Union. Complex negotiations typically precede the publication of proposed directives in sensitive economic and commercial areas. Its role as guardian of the treaties, and as competition policy overlord especially, brings the Commission directly into contact with business interests. In this technocratic world, scientific technical expertise is the key resource and the use of a scientific register is essential if a group is to have influence (Saugrugger, 2003). In the case of nuclear energy, for example, the Commission has little expertise and technical expertise is highly valued. At another level, criticisms of the democratic deficit have led the Commission to favour the pluralist confrontation between interest groups as a surrogate for a more democratic euro-polity, as well as a means of strengthening its own capacity. New actors - firms, civic associations, new trade unions – have emerged in the public sphere. There has been a growth in the number of associations and social movements, many of which are active in trans-national networks and feel empowered by their dealings with Brussels. Mutli-level governance?: Mutli-level governance? The metaphor of multi-level governance captures these pluralistic tendencies well. It is virtually impossible for any group to ‘capture’ the EU institutional machinery. The EU provides a set of institutional arenas that can provide a focus for strategic action, but can rarely produce static rental situations. The institutional fragmentation of the EU polity fits well with governance accounts and bears some striking similarities to accounts of US public policy (Baumgartner and Jones, 1993). Lobbying in the EU is, in part, a process of venue shopping: focussing upon the right institutional venue at the right time in the complex policy process. As well as being a multi-level institutional venue, the EU is a regulatory regime and a multi-level legal order of a new sort (Majone, 1996, Bideleux, 2003).