Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy, Vol. 30, 2005
44 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2005
The article argues that we live in a world in which nodal forms of governance are commonplace. Nodal governance is an elaboration of contemporary network theory explaining how a variety of actors operating within social systems interact along networks to govern the systems they inhabit. We draw upon Hayek to argue that any collectivity can be seen as an outcome-generating system whose workings are generally too complex to be fully understood. Governance in such systems is constituted in nodes that mobilize the knowledge and capacity of members to manage the course of events. Nodes have four essential characteristics: mentalities, technologies, resources, and institutions. Nodes govern in a wide variety of ways, including by mobilizing resources, deploying technologies, using rules or laws, and directly governing people within the system. Two case studies illustrate how nodal governance operates and explores its regulatory possibilities. The development of the TRIPS agreement on intellectual property is one story of nodal governance that blurs the line between public and private spheres and has global consequences. It also demonstrates why nodal governance is neither necessarily democratic nor a method that secures more goods than bads for the population as a whole. The Zwelethemba Model of Local Capacity Governance, a security project in poor South African townships, demonstrates that the creation of governing nodes can be a means of promoting democracy and self-efficacy within collectives. It shows that new nodes can change relationships among existing nodes and even change the operation of formal government structures. In sum, nodal governance has potentialities for the weak and the strong, but the possibilities that can be realized depends on how nodal governance is constituted.
Keywords: Governance, democracy
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