Presentation on theme: " Explaining the growth of regional authority. The idea of the nation-state was fully developed by the time of the French Revolution at the end of."— Presentation transcript:
Explaining the growth of regional authority
The idea of the nation-state was fully developed by the time of the French Revolution at the end of the 18 th C but its implementation was most fully accomplished only by the middle of the twentieth century. The nation-state is treated as a distinctive form of political organisation which has a number of common features: the nation refers to a group distinguished by either common ethnic, cultural or linguistic features or which has come together by choice; the state is the political and administrative machinery of the nation and the boundaries of both are meant to coincide.
A central dimension of nations and states and their combination into the nation-state is territory. In the period before the nation-state, the relationship between nation, state and territory was highly complex. There were many opportunities for exit and few for voice in the forms of political organisation in place previous to the nation-state on account of the weakness and porosity of borders. The nation-state had the effect of reducing this complexity by closing off the opportunities for exit and strengthening loyalty to the state and giving greater voice to citizens through democracy.
During the 18 th century appeared the two most important types of territorial organisation of the nation-state: the federal state in the US and the unitary state in France. In continental Europe, the French unitary model was the most important and was either imposed on states following conquest during the Napoleonic Wars OR adopted freely as a result of nationalist revolutions but Europe also had its own indigenous federal traditions notably in Switzerland and Germany.
The centrality and domination of the nation-state has been changing under external pressures such as globalisation and, in Europe, European integration and the internal mobilisations of regions and local authorities. Although it has not yet disappeared, the link between nation and state has been considerably weakened and new types of relationship among the constituent territorial units have been developing at the supranational, the sub-national and the international levels.
One of the problems associated with constructing typologies of states is deciding which states may be placed within the category of federations and which are unitary states. The US and Switzerland are clearly recognised as federations and France or Portugal as unitary states, but what of countries such as Spain and the United Kingdom (UK), especially following devolution? Each of these countries has some federal features but, in other respects, is unitary. The Spanish Constitution speaks of the ‘one and indivisible nation’ of Spain and sovereignty is still located at the level of the national government.
Similarly, although the United Kingdom possesses devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland endowed with considerable powers, national sovereignty, theoretically at least, remains located at the Westminster parliament. A fully federal state, on the other hand, involves the sharing or division of sovereignty between the federal and subfederal governments in such a way that neither level of government may intervene within the sovereign sphere of the other.
It may be better to think of a continuum with, at one end, states like the US, Australia, Belgium and Germany which are clearly federations; and, at the other, countries like Ireland, Portugal and Sweden which are clearly unitary. In between, there are a range of other configurations with greater or lesser degrees of centralisation, regionalisation and decentralisation. In this part of the spectrum may be situated France, Italy, Spain and the devolved UK, etc.
Swenden thinks that federal systems and regionalised systems should be clearly differentiated. He distinguishes between federalism and federation, as well as confederalism, regionalism and regionalised states. Using these basic concepts he then examines the countries of Western Europe from different angles: the constitutional approach, the political economy approach, the party system and public policy approaches.
State formation in territorial states such as France, Sweden and England, and then of nation-state formation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was the reduction of these entities in subordination to the emerging national governments. Sub-national governments were allowed to exist strictly in subordination to national governments. The situation of local government has shifted as a result of some of the developments: the acceleration of European integration in the 1980s and 1990s and the loosening of the control of national governments over their subnational authorities.
1-Viewing regional authority from the top down: The functions of statehood have changed, with consequential effects for the territorial distribution of political authority within the state. The functional tasks of the state, and their implications for the scale at which government is organised, have changed radically since the end of the Second World War. The mid-20th century imperatives of mobilising for and then fighting war, then of the postwar reconstruction of societies and economies disrupted by war, were centralist; central government institutions took on far-reaching roles in planning economic activity and distributing public and private goods.
Although that pervasive planning role had largely fallen away by the mid-1950s, the state took on new functions after the war in guaranteeing social welfare through new welfare state institutions and regional policies designed to even out interregional economic disparities. These new functions also accumulated around central governments as they sought to fund and deliver a new form of equitable ‘social citizenship’ which evened out imbalances across social classes and territorial locations. The paradigm that emerged was that of the Keynesian welfare state, a paradigm based on a confidence in the capacity of interventionist, ‘big’ government to secure collective goals on a uniform, state-wide basis.
Although the policy portfolio of the state has widened still further to incorporate other policy fields – environment, further and higher education, new forms of micro-economic policy and so on – not all of these ‘press authority toward the central state’; some (aspects) of these policies ‘are most efficiently delivered at diverse jurisdictional scales, including a regional level between the local and the national’ In addition, confidence in Keynesian and big government fell away during the economic crises of the 1970s and amid a growing sense that government was ‘overloaded’. It was challenged and replaced by a new neoliberal paradigm that questioned the capacity of central governments to manage national economies in an era of growing economic interdependence and led to a rebalancing of state and market in favour of the latter.
A number of implications for the regional level have resulted: 1-some functions have been offloaded by the central state to become responsibilities of existing or newly created regional institutions. 2- in a more limited variant of regional decentralisation, regional institutions have in some cases been delegated as implementation agents with the delivery of centrally determined priorities at arm’s length from central government and with varying degrees of policy discretion. 3- central government has in other cases simply withdrawn from earlier functions, sometimes with damaging consequences for social welfare and economic development in particular places, prompting regional-level actors to step in and try to fill the gap.
‘new’ regionalism: regional actors across the public and private sectors have joined forces to compensate for the withdrawal of the central state from classic postwar regional policies designed to even out inter- regional economic disparities. European integration is often identified as a factor reinforcing the post-Keynesian tendency of the central state to ‘spin off’ functions to the regional level.
Competition policy rules on state aids have limited the scope of the central state to use fiscal policy instruments – tax breaks and targeted spending– to intervene in regional economies to secure state-wide equity goals, reinforcing the tendency of the central state to decentralise, delegate or withdraw from earlier roles. EU structural policy has established new practices and conditions for policy interventions – in particular ‘partnership’ strategies in policy implementation designed to incorporate regional level actors within the state into European policy networks – that have prompted central governments to strengthen regional- level political institutions.
European integration challenged or replaced the traditional roles of the central state, in the process facilitating the ‘mobilisation’ of regions as significant EU-level actors.
2-Viewing regional authority from the bottom up: Perspectives from above describe regional actors as ‘essentially unimportant and passive players’ lacking their own vitality and agency at least until that point at which a central government decision is taken to transfer authority at the regional level, or the extra-state dynamics of European integration open up room for them to become mobilised. These are perspectives that neglect the possibility that regional actors ‘may themselves and from the “bottom up”, actively seek to, and succeed in’ recalibrating political authority: by giving new meaning to responsibilities passed down from the centre; by gaining new responsibilities from the centre; or by otherwise building claims to regional autonomy within the state or in some cases independence from the state.
There are a number of variants of this perspective on recalibrating political authority ‘from below’: the claims of distinctive territorial communities within the state for political structures that reflect that distinctiveness. Such distinctiveness can have different forms. Most attention has been given to the ways in which shared social identity can sustain a sense of the distinctiveness of the political community: Catalonia, Quebec and Scotland, the Basque Country, Bavaria, Flanders and Wales. All have been territorial sources of demands and movements for constitutional change that have challenged and reorganize the constitutional structures of the state to establish more decision-making authority at the regional level.
Another basis of distinctive territorial community is economic; there is a growing tendency for richer regions to seek to limit any need to share resources with economically weaker regions in the same state. The demand for regional authority in such cases is about reducing obligations to inter-regional solidarity, and has been a significant factor in constitutional reform debates in Northern Italy, Southern Germany Similar complaints of the rich about transfers to the less well off have appeared in Canada, with oil-rich Alberta leading the way and Australia, where Victoria periodically protests about the rigours of the Australian fiscal equalisation process. In some places – notably Bavaria and Flanders – economic and identity cleavages reinforce each other as pressures for decentralisation.
These examples of how the form of the state is adapted because of pressures of social diversity from below echo Livingston’s (1952: 87) claim that ‘the nature of a society is roughly reflected in the external forms of its political and constitutional arrangements’. Territorial social diversity – existing or new territorial cleavages – acts as a force for institutional change. The focus in Livingston’s work on the social determinants of territorial politics was an attempt to reclaim the study of federal forms of government from the-then – in the early 1950s – dominant institutionalist approaches Others sought later to reclaim institutions as determinants of territorial politics, notably Alan Cairns’. Cairns argued, in opposition to Livingston, that the presence of provincial political institutions in Canada shaped the territorial societies on which those institutions were located. Institutional changes act on society to create new territorial social cleavages.
From the top down – and back again These perspectives on the capacity of regional institutions to determine and differentiate the ways in which social interests are aggregated territorially within states are significant in light of the growth of regional authority since the 1970s. the existence of regional institutions with significant decision-making authority creates new capacities and incentives for regional mobilisation. One example is in the ‘new regionalism’: regional actors may have been prompted to build up ‘endogenous’ economic development capacities because the central state withdrew from earlier commitments to state-wide regional policies, but in many cases those capacities have developed far beyond the initial prompt to establish spheres of action autonomous of the central state. In some cases the focus on and success in building endogenous economic capacities has damaged older inter-regional practices of solidarity and strengthened the economically grounded claims to further regional autonomy: in the field of social policy.
As central states have withdrawn from some of their commitments in delivering a state-wide social citizenship, regional actors in some places – most prominently those that have distinctive territorial identities – have gotten involved to redefine welfare as something better, or more reliably, achieved in a narrower territorial border. McEwen’s (2006) work on the interrelationship of (sub-state) nationalism and welfare explains the vitality of pro-autonomy movements in Scotland and Quebec. In this way an initial retrenchment by the centre from formerly state-wide policies becomes the basis for a much more encompassing dynamic of territorial mobilisation, which has led in each case to demands for a further-farreaching transformation of the structure of political authority within the state
These kinds of interaction between change from above and mobilisation from below have a further illustration in the impacts of European integration. European integration has established conditions in which regions compete for economic advantage across state borders, intensifying the focus on endogenous capacities and shifting attitudes further away from commitments of inter-regional solidarity within the state.
And, by establishing a transnational single market, European integration has limited the potential costs of regional autonomy.. Problems of methodological nationalism ‘methodological nationalism’, the assumption that the national state or national society ‘is the natural social and political form of the modern world’. That assumption of the national as ‘natural’, while persistent, has faced a number of challenges.
Some have taken current debates about globalisation or Europeanisation as challenges to the nation state as opportunities to highlight how transnational forms of social and political organisation have always been There has been a rather less successful challenge to nationalising assumptions about social and political organisation within the state. There are vast amounts of empirical evidence that ‘territorial effects have been a constant presence in European politics’
cultural heterogeneity has persisted as a basis for territorial political mobilisation. Some ‘peripheral regions, linguistic minorities and culturally threatened peoples’ continued to reject ‘the uniform and rationalising tendencies of the centralising nation state’ The capacity of the ‘nationalising’ parties for state-wide integration had, however, become severely weakened by the 1980s, by which time a vigorous collection of ‘ethno- regionalist’ or ‘non-state-wide’ parties had (re)gained prominence across Western Europe.