Governance or Interpellation?

An Elaboration of Civil Servant Practice(s)

in Ethnologia Europaea
Niels Jul Nielsen University of Copenhagen

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How can we understand and analytically grasp the practices that “run the state”? Departing from a contemporary focus on co-production in governance regimes, such as New Public Management and New Public Governance, this article argues that the Althusserian concept of interpellation contemplates a focus on a necessary connection between a superior Subject (often understood as the state) and dependent subjects – generally absent in governance studies. Drawing on Hegel’s concept of the universal class (der allgemeine Stand) and deploying the ethnologically-based state and life-mode theory, it is concluded that a state-subject can constitute a coherent and resilient whole only by encompassing a viable civil servant life-mode, and that the concepts policy-developing, operationalizing, and policy-implementing, together specify three different but interdependent and necessary dimensions of civil servant practice. A presentation of an empirical case of contemporary co-productive governance applies the developed concepts.

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