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SEPTEMBER 2012 -EGPA Permanent Study Group on the Public Governance of Societal Sectors
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9/5/2012 to 9/8/2012
When: 9/5/2012

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EGPA Permanent Study Group on the Public Governance of Societal Sectors

Conference of the European Group of Public Administration, Bergen, 5-8 September 2012

Theme for 2012: the co-optation of civil society organizations and citizens

During the past two years, we explored both the drivers behind the changing governance of societal sectors (Toulouse 2010), and current trends in societal sector development (Bucharest 2011). Both were successful meetings that provided rich ideas on the direction in which our common enterprise may develop. One of these ideas is to craft a book on the mechanisms that underlie the ‘manufacturing of civil society’. We have already collected some interesting contributions to this theme, but there is room for more. We wish to dedicate the meeting in Bergen to papers with a more focused analysis of the co-optation of both civil society organizations and citizens. How do (central, local, functional) government bodies shape and manage relations with third sector organisations and (communities of) citizens? Which instruments and styles of governance can be distinguished within these new governance arrangements? How do third sector organisations, citizens and communities react to them?

Papers submitted to the study group may be eligible for inclusion in the book. If you are in doubt whether your topic fits our theme, do not hesitate to contact us prior to submitting an abstract.

Background and focus of the Study Group

According to influential social theorists like Beck, Giddens and Bauman, modernity has entered a permanent state of turbulence, The solid, defined, territorialised, and state-bound concept of modern life is melting down. At the level of work and welfare, the traditional social ties (labour relations, community solidarity) become weaker and fragile. The livingenvironment is one of increasing anonymity, distrust and discontent, due to the effects of economic individualisation, migration and cultural fragmentation.

Governments are desperately seeking answers to these processes of ‘social liquefaction’. However, a major complication is that public governance itself is part of the ‘melt-down’. The solid state, intervening in society with powerful social technologies, no longer exists. Governance instruments that rely on authority, hierarchy and bureaucracy increasingly suffer from lack of effectiveness and legitimacy. As a consequence, we witness the emergence of new modes of public governance, aiming to recover solid ground for intervention. One of the strategies is to give community initiatives, local social practices and third sector organisations a position and function within public governance.

Of course, this looks like a paradox: if social and cultural erosion is the problem, how can it be part of the solution? The way out is that public authorities are increasingly inclined to re-define social relations and responsibilities as manufactured and/or manageable concepts. Or, to put it somewhat more provocatively: public governance in modern welfare states is searching for methods to reinvent (or: revitalise) ‘the social’. Ambitions include a large-scale reconstruction of local communities, civil society and citizenship, by giving public responsibilities to citizens and third sector organisations. Simultaneously, relationships with citizens, communities and third sector organisations are cast within the mould of public management. They are subjected to accountability procedures; inserted in structures of supervision; included in arenas for competition and contracting.

The study group focuses on the emergence of this new type of governance, which manifests itself in two ways. First, it aims at establishing active and responsible communities and citizens, based on the belief that late-modern society does not generate the required levels of social trust and capital spontaneously. Second, by doing so the state shares public responsibilities with other actors like businesses, third sector organisations, and citizens. The Study Group explores the dynamics, effectiveness and appropriateness of this institutional response to the liquefaction of modern social life.

Format of contributions: options

1. Thorough discussion of research papers

First of all, we think of empirical-analytical papers, dealing with the issues raised in the call. However, we also welcome conceptual and/or theoretical papers that reflect on the drivers behind the manufacturing of civil society, or its social, political and institutional implications.

2. Debates on emerging issues in the field

We will devote part of the meetings around the discussion of one or more statements, based on a concise, focused paper. Participants are encouraged to participate in the discussions.

Applicants can also choose to submit statements of their own and/or act in a particular role in the discussion (e.g. defender, devil’s advocate). If this appeals to you, please contact us.

3. Discussion of potential future projects

As a group, we can discuss potential future projects, which can be developed over the coming years. In any case we will present an elaborated proposal for the book on ‘manufacturing civil society’.

The rules

- All accepted participants can submit a paper, regardless of whether they are presenting this paper or participating in some way, e.g. by defending a statement. All submitted papers will be posted on the Study Group website.

- Not the same presentation twice. Only papers that have been seriously revised can be presented again. The presentation should then focus on progress made. Those who wish to participate, but have no new paper, have the option of participating as debater, as referee or in another interesting role, but not as presenter. During the selection of abstracts, the directors will decide on what constitute ‘new’ and ‘old’ papers.

- No shopping policy. We are a small group focused on interaction and therefore expect participants to stay with our group throughout the conference. ‘Shopping’ at other Study Group meetings is not appreciated.


There will be the possibility to submit the abstract both by e-mail (to: and through the EGPA conference website.

Deadline submission of abstracts of proposals by e-mail: 5 May 2012

Deadline online submission of abstracts of proposals via conference website: 15 May 2012

Deadline decision and selection by the co-chairs: 1st June 2012

Deadline submitting the complete papers: 25 July 2012.

Practical information

For practical information about registration fees, location and travel, please consult the conference website:


Taco Brandsen Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen School of Management, PO Box 9108, 6500 HK Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Willem Trommel VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Social Sciences, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Bram Verschuere University College Ghent, Department of Business and Public Administration, Voskenslaan 290, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

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