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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

1 - Rights, regulation and disputing: a conflict-centred approach to transnational governance



This chapter aims to elaborate an analytical framework that can integrate the dynamics of social protest into understandings of the transnational governance of a particular kind of social policy problem. These are issues of social policy provision that involve significant capital investment but also directly impact the basic needs of individuals, of which access to water is an example. Transnational governance is now the subject of an extensive literature, ranging through anthropology, law, sociology and politics. The different strands of literature have two observations in common: first, that forms of transnational governance, including substantive social policy initiatives in a transnational context, increasingly focus on rules and standards rather than, or in addition to, legally mandated redistributive settlements. Second, transnational governance is shaped as much by non-state actors as by national state interests.

This second commonality in the literature obscures an important double decentring – that of national states and national laws. Literature from politics and the world systems approach in sociology tends to focus on the decentring of states, expressed in a burgeoning interest in regulation, networks and norm transmission. Anthropological and more micro- sociological literature by contrast is more concerned with the decentring of law by extending long traditions of enquiry into legal pluralism into the transnational sphere. This double decentring is particularly challenging for (formal) law, given law's layered relationship with the state – both part of the state and independent from it.