Restructuring the local state: economic governance or social regulation?

Martin Russell Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There can be no doubt that major changes are underway at the scale of the local state. Since the late 1970s, the Keynesian welfare state partnership between local government and central government has been challenged through the emergence of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations (quangos). Concurrently, local government has been reinvented, private-sector style, through the introduction of quasi-markets and contract culture. It is now de rigueur to characterise this challenge within the discourse of a shift from government to governance. This is because governance captures notions of interorganisational and intersystemic steering. Focusing specifically on the ESRC's `Local Governance Programme'-launched in 1993 to engage with the transformation of the structure of government beyond Westminster and Whitehall-the paper claims that the agenda for economic governance research is increasingly becoming descriptive; where the primary object of enquiry is to detail how the new institutions intermesh with local government to produce unevenly developed local governance. Using the example of changes in U.K. job-training governance, the paper argues that governance research must not loose sight of the place of quangos as sites for state-articulated social regulation and social control. This is not to deny the role of local geographies of governance within capitalist transformation but to restate the role of the nation state-political geography (with politics)-when analysing local state transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)959-988
Number of pages30
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998


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