Instituting the ‘third sector’ as a governable terrain: partnership, procurement and performance in the UK

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Emma Carmel Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, UK

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Jenny Harlock Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, UK

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In this article we argue that governance of the ‘dispersed state’ is being extended into the quasi-private realm of voluntary and community organisations and their activities. Focusing on public service delivery, we distinguish the formal and operational dimensions of governance, and argue that the goal of partnership carves out a newly governable terrain – the third sector – which is to be organised through the operational governance mechanisms of procurement and performance. The result is the attempted normalisation of VCOs as market-responsive, generic service providers, disembedded from their social and political contexts and denuded of ethical or moral content and purpose.

Emma Carmel Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, UK

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Jenny Harlock Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, UK

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