Governance or interpellation? An elaboration of civil servant practice(s)

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How can we understand and analytically grasp the practices that ‘run the state’? Departing in the contemporary focus on ‘co-production’ in governance regimes such as New Public Management (NPM) and New Public Governance (NPG), the paper critically discusses the foundation of governance studies where a basic distinction between governor and governed tends to be taken for granted and, consequently, left out of the understanding. Against this, it is argued that the Althusserian concept of interpellation installs a necessary connection between a superior Subject – often understood as ‘the state’ – and dependent subjects. Drawing on Hegel’s concept of ‘the universal class’ (der allgemeine Stand) and deploying the ethnologically-based state and life-mode theory, it is asserted that a state-subject can make up a coherent and resilient whole only by encompassing a viable civil servant life-mode. The paper elaborates three principal dimensions of civil servant practices: policy-developing, operationalizing, and policy-implementing.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEthnologia Europaea
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

ID: 250617859