Socially inclusive governance? : a comparison of local anti-poverty strategies in the UK and the Netherlands
It is commonplace for intellectuals and political figures to speak of popular involvement in decision-making as an essential basis for a well-functioning and legitimate democracy, while at the same time institutions of liberal democracy are under threat and face crisis in the west. In response a rhetoric of socially inclusive and participatory governance has taken hold as a means for democratic renewal - a 'third-way' between the outmoded dogma of the command state and free market - one that encourages participation of local people in a plurality of non-state organisations in civil society. Rather than banish ailing representative institutions, new perspectives seek to pluralise and radicalise them, particularly as existing socialism continues to decline, carrying with it a mounting impasse within traditional thinking on the Left. Debates on socially inclusive governance and the deep implications for a democratic and plural socialism are pressing, and require critical attention. Research for this thesis deals centrally with the debate on socially inclusive governance by comparing actual mechanisms for popular involvement in local anti-poverty strategies in the UK and the Netherlands. Comparing these issues in North Tyneside and Rotterdam, this research shows that despite novel attempts towards involvement at grassroots level, this ideal is belied by a more restricted reality. Radical democracy requires intervention along an explicit participatory ideology external to the internal logic of governance pluralism. Any project for radical and plural democracy, moreover, needs to be mindful of the nature of the relationship between state and civil society, and retain a normative conception of the 'third-sector'. Despite enduring institutional specificities and contextual path-dependence, a deepening process of international neo-liberalisation has engendered a tendency for welfare regime convergence in the UK and the Netherlands. Certain possibilities exist for policy transfer between these different institutional contexts.