Integrating Thematic Line
Regulatory and Governance Challenges for Complex Societies
Regulation is a critical issue in an age of societal changes and growing inequalities. As is well-known, the welfare state, labour market institutions and the regulation of the financial system played a key role in post-war capitalism, contributing during that time to more egalitarian societies. More recently, however, technological change, globalization, neoliberalism, as well as, to a certain extent, side effects of the implementation of the welfare state, contributed, among other trends, to growing levels of inequality, uncontrolled urbanization, predatory extraction of natural resources as well as unsustainable pressures on the environment. To take inequalities as an example, there are different strands of literature analysing their causes, as for instance polarization (which emphasizes the role of technology), dualization (which highlights the importance of macro-level institutions) or financialization (which pays more attention to the crucial role finance plays in contemporary capitalism).
Regardless of the analytical/disciplinary approach which is taken, these trends converge on the need to regulate capitalism and develop governance frameworks to address growing inequalities and other social problems. This requires, however, a proper understanding of the reality of regulation and governance. What makes them effective? What tools can be used, and among them, what is the role of the law, today? What are the consequences of the measures taken? How do different governance agencies interact, taking in account the competitive, conflictual or cooperative relationship that may exist between them? What are the possible links between governance levels (local, regional, national, international), sectors (public, private), or scopes (societal, functionally specialized)? Here special attention should be paid to the links between political and scientific governance. Among other questions, it is worth analysing how challenges to governance and regulatory mechanisms related, for example, to environmental policies, resources and space management, frame new research topics, new ways of organizing science, or new connections between natural and social sciences.
In our view, there are currently three main areas where regulation is particularly important: the environment, the financial system and the labour market. This thematic line aims to foster the debate and research in particular between these three areas, in order to develop a theoretical framework around the concepts of regulation and governance, as part of a general discussion of organized collective human action. By doing so, this ITL, at a first level, opens up a debate which complements the debates about what gives the trends to be addressed their own dynamics (an issue discussed by ITL Innovation and Transition to Sustainable Societies) or about how governance measures are received on the ground (an issue discussed by ITL Creative and Participative Lives in Empowered Societies). But it also will have to take into account how certain aggregated societal dynamics, as well as the participation of individuals, make governance and regulation both necessary and possible.
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