New Perspectives in Policy and Politics
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Studies making use of (de)politicisation have flourished as governments have embraced technocratic and delegated forms of governance. Yet this increase in use is not always matched by conceptual or analytical refinement. Nor has scholarship generally travelled into empirical terrain beyond economic and monetary policy, nor assessed whether politicising and depoliticising processes could occur simultaneously. It is within this intellectual context that the chapter makes a novel contribution by focusing on the (de)politicising discourses, processes and outcomes within policy surrounding assisted reproductive technologies. The chapter reveals a pattern of partial repoliticisation that raises questions about the relationship between governance, technology, society and state.
To what extent does society need a ‘second-wave’ of writing on depoliticisation to correct the biases of the first and thereby to improve our capacity to gain analytical traction on the dynamic interplay between politicising and depoliticising tendencies in contemporary liberal democracies? This chapter welcomes the debate this special issue has opened, but defend the first wave against its critics. More specifically, it argues that the first wave literature provides ample analytical and theoretical resources to capture the dynamic interplay between depoliticising tendencies and politicising or repoliticising counter-tendencies which its critics rightly place at centre stage. Indeed, it goes further, suggesting that the more empirical contributions of the special issue, while bringing a series of new and important insights to the analysis of politicisation–depoliticisation dynamics, in fact do so by drawing extensively on first wave depoliticisation theory. Such work is very necessary and advances significantly our understanding of depoliticising, but it extends rather than challenges first wave perspectives and is ultimately better characterised as ‘second generation’ rather than ‘second wave’.
This article places the study of depoliticisation within a framework that highlights the crisis-ridden character of capitalist development. It suggests that by linking depoliticisation to the activities of state managers engaged in crisis management, the concept scores highly in terms of clarity and precision over more expansive uses that lack a cutting edge and result in the assertion that ‘depoliticisation is everywhere’. In a context characterised by the continued crisis of global capital it is argued that the politicisation of social relations threatens the basis not only of individual governments but of the liberal capitalist form of the state itself.
This paper critically examines the linkages between the literatures on depoliticisation, governance and political participation. To do so, it is divided into three substantive sections. The first section critiques Flinders and Wood’s article which introduces this edited volume. Subsequently, the second section examines the links between forms of depoliticisation and modes of governance, arguing that a metagovernance approach allows the best understanding of the ‘evidence’ for depoliticisation. The final section then considers the changing nature of political participation, arguing that society is witnessing both depoliticisation and repoliticisation, and that it is crucial to recognise and respond to each of these processes.
Depoliticisation refers to the narrowing of the boundaries of democratic politics. It is therefore intertwined with concerns about ‘the end of politics’ and the emergence of technocratic post-democratic forms of governance. This chapter provides a broad theoretical and conceptual canvas upon which the various contributions to this special edition can be located and their interrelationships exposed. It achieves this by exploring the relevance of Carl Schmitt’s concept of ‘the political’, and particularly his analysis of ‘the age of neutralisations and depoliticisations’, to contemporary debates concerning depoliticisation, (re)politicisation and even hyper-depoliticisation.
This article makes an important contribution to the depoliticisation literature by switching the focus on to how strategies and forms of depoliticised governance are repoliticised. At present, there is an absence of empirical research on how issues move from depoliticised to politicised arenas and the role of non-state actors in these processes. This article addresses these gaps through an exploration of the partial remunicipalisation of the Berlin Water Company in 2012. The case study reveals the potential for dynamic interplay between processes of depoliticisation and politicisation and the continuing possibility for political agency despite the constraints in urban politics.
This article explores one set of conditions under which a policy area, energy, became politicised. It also explores the relationship between concepts of ‘speaking security’, which claim that the language of security is politically potent, and notions of (de-) politicisation. It argues that the framing of energy supply as a security issue influenced an opening up of UK energy, which had been subject to processes of depoliticisation since the late 1980s, to greater political interest and deliberation. Speaking security about energy had a high degree of cognitive authority and was instrumental in revealing a lack of policy-making capacity in energy.
Politicisation, depoliticisation, and repoliticisation are basic and interrelated concepts in political analysis. They may also describe specific political strategies in relatively stable, turbulent or crisis-prone periods or concrete conjunctures. This article aims to clarify the chameleon-like concept of depoliticisation by distinguishing its different levels and forms. It also applies these distinctions to two cases of ‘depoliticisation’ in the fiscal politics of the North Atlantic Financial Crisis (NAFC). The magnitude, duration, and depth of this crisis have prompted an intriguing mix of de- and repoliticisation strategies. These are evident in the manufactured hysteria about the ‘fiscal cliff’ in the USA and the attempts to impose technocratic government and a new economic constitution in the Eurozone. The conclusion offers some general reflections.
Stagnating political participation, the growth of delegated agencies and the prevalence of rationalistic-technocratic discourse all represent interlinking aspects of what can been termed ‘the depoliticised polity’. Existing research has overwhelmingly focused on institutional or governmental depoliticisation strategies and fails to acknowledge repoliticisation as a critical counter-trend. This chapter argues that these weaknesses can be addressed through ‘a three faces’ approach that embraces societal and discursive depoliticisation strategies as complementary statecraft dynamics that often underpin more tangible governmental strategies. By revealing the existence of multiple forms of depoliticisation this approach also offers new insights in terms of politicisation and socio-political change.
Premised on the assumption that depoliticisation is a crucial aspect of neo-liberal governmentality, this paper attempts to synergise these two, previously disparate, concepts. Borrowing from Foucault’s theorisation of governmentality and drawing from inclusive definitions of politics/the political, this paper argues for a reformulation of our understanding of depoliticisation and politicisation. The paper contends that depoliticisation is best understood as a technique of governing which works to legitimise neo-liberalism as the dominant political rationality. As such, the chapter argues that depoliticisation acts as a tool for masking the ‘rolling forward’ of the state and the proliferation of new forms of neo-liberal governmentality.