Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 April 2020
This chapter explores the democratic promise of “democratic governance” and finds it to be a lie. With a particular emphasis on how the economic system has cut itself adrift from legal regulation and, in the process, re-configured its relationship to the law under the sign of “governance”, we explore the logic of a key substitution: the market principle that was understood as the principle subtending the transactional nature of private law as distinct from public law, gradually becomes the arbiter of the separation itself and guarantor of the circulation (“balancing” in the preferred idiom) of public goods. Governance is imported to lend a vocabulary to these significant shifts, celebrated by its exponents as signifier for plasticity and “experimentalism”. The chapter explores the suggestion that governance might be thought of as an “empty signifier”, in that it performs a function that is typically “hegemonic”: it immunises itself by absorbing and re-defining (across its semantic range) any opposition to it. Through a series of substitutions, it performs a self-referential operation that has internalised all its criteria in order that governance be able to define for itself what is democratic about it.
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