Advanced industrial states have experienced a transition from a rationality of managed liberalism (epitomized by the Keynesian welfare state) to a new rationality of government through communities. Explore the consequence of this transition.
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Before answering this question, I must say that I am skeptical that any such transition has truly occurred in the majority of advanced industrial (or post-industrial) states. Recent efforts at devolution in the UK notwithstanding, I do not think that the centralized welfare state has largely been dismantled and power given to local communities. That said, I will answer this question as if the transition it describes has truly happened.
The transition described in this question is one in which power devolves from central governments to local governments. In a classic welfare state, the central government devises policies and the local and/or regional governments’ only task is to carry them out. In the new “government through communities,” the centralized governments still set policy goals, but they seek more input from local governments and local communities. They try to have those communities help decide how the goals will be pursued and they give the local communities much more power in the process of implementing whatever strategies they devise. In this sort of a system, power is much more decentralized and local communities have much more autonomy to react to their own unique local circumstances.
If this transition is taking place or has taken place, they consequences will be important. The most important consequence will be that states as a whole will become more democratic. This will happen because more people will be involved more directly in making decisions and carrying out actions that affect them. A second consequence is that states will become less homogeneous. The policies that are carried out, and the ways in which they are carried out, in one city or region may be very different than those in another place. This could potentially reduce the coherence and stability of the state as a whole and lead to more attempts at autonomy such as we have seen recently in Scotland. Finally, we can say that this transition will impact the ability of any government or movement to affect change across a whole country. The more autonomy each locality has, the harder it will be to create change. A movement that can successfully push for something like greater environmental responsibility in one community may not be easily able to get that policy implemented over the whole state. This will make change (even needed change) harder to come by. It will create more little power centers run by people who will resist change.
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