Governing Modern Societies


298 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-8198-3
DDC 320




Edited by Richard V. Ericson and Nico Stehr
Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science and
environmental studies at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial
University of Newfoundland.


The papers contained in this book are based on a series of public
lectures presented at the University of British Columbia by prominent
political and social thinkers.

Nico Stehr and Richard Ericson argue that the state has become somewhat
ungovernable because of the development of a knowledge-based society.
David Held discusses the significance of globalization for democratic
politics, suggesting the possibility of a “cosmopolitan democracy”
in which an emergent “transnational civil society” holds
transnational power systems accountable. David Elkins argues that
globalization processes are not creating one global culture, but can
assist in enhancing diversity. Warren Magnusson provides a critique of
the concept of state sovereignty and tries to move away from
state-centric thinking by using the concepts of hyperspace (from
contemporary physics) and the global city. Barry Hindess views the
international state system as a means of disciplining the population.
Like Hindess, Nikolas Rose attempts to apply Foucault’s analyses of
governing, suggesting that new forms of governing (the “enabling
state”) based on neither the state nor the market are developing.
Claus Offe argues against dealing with identity conflicts through the
recognition of group rights.

Ronald Beiner defends social democracy in terms of a moral concept of
citizenship that emphasizes the collective pursuit of an equalitarian
solidarity. Dietrich Rueschemeyer views democracy as the result of the
conflicts and antagonisms that are created in the course of capitalist
development, and argues that democracy should be viewed positively as
potentially limiting the power of the “haves” and opening a space
for the “have-nots.” Anthony Atkinson finds that the case that
welfare states are uncompetitive in a global economy has not been
proven, and that as a result welfare state policies should be determined
by political rather than economic considerations. Finally, Ed Broadbent
defends the welfare state as providing a balance between the
self-interested and cooperative aspects of human nature and between
personal happiness and the public good.

Most of the articles (some of which have been previously published) are
thought-provoking and raise important questions about contemporary
Western societies. The papers are scholarly but, as a result of their
brevity, some of the arguments are not fully developed and evidence for
the propositions is often limited.


“Governing Modern Societies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,