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The 2010 Critical Governance Conference

The Critical Governance Conference: University of Warwick, 13th – 14th December 2010

The inaugural Critical Governance conference was held at Warwick Business School, the University of Warwick, on 13th and 14th December 2010. Organized by the Institute of Governance and Public Management, it brought together scholars and practitioners challenging orthodoxies and developing critical approaches to governance theory and research. Eighty two conference delegates represented 55 institutions and 18 countries. University of Warwick Vice Chancellor, Professor Nigel Thrift, opened the conference, followed by Professor Colin Crouch, who spoke to his new book The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism. We were very fortunate to be able to welcome the world-renowned Professor Nancy Fraser as our keynote speaker on the timely theme Crisis of Capitalism, Crisis of Governance: Re-reading Karl Polanyi in the 21st Century. Conference discussion revolved around themes including understanding and challenging hegemony, creating and contesting democratic spaces, crisis, capital and the state and the critical governance of development, money, science and space. At the closing plenary, Professors Nancy Fraser, David Imbroscio, Martin Parker and Helen Sullivan were invited to share their thoughts about the future of critical governance studies. The discussion focused on three main themes – what is critical governance against, what is it for, and to what extent does the practice of critique require us to move beyond diagnosis into the construction of alternatives? And, should we be doing more to celebrate and nurture those spaces that have not been encroached by insurgent neoliberalism? In defence of critique, Nancy Fraser argued that it is impossible to separate diagnosis and prescription, historical accounts of injustice from the struggles against it. Moreover, we do not yet have a good enough account of the human condition to permit adequate thinking about alternative futures. Critique therefore remains the condition of transformation.

Delegates were very positive about the conference experience and had some excellent suggestions for future work. One commented ‘This was a genuinely involving and fascinating conference where people collectively engaged with thinking at a deep level about core issues’. Another said: ‘It was the best conference I have been to in quite a while, and most of the plenaries saw half the room asking questions, again, rare in my experience’. The critical governance network is now exploring the options for journal publications, an edited collection and future conferences and seminars. Regular updates on the network will appear on this website and on the jiscmail list, ‘Critical-Governance-Conference’. See http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/alumni/knowledge/themes/02/crisis_of_capitalism for the Warwick Knowledge Centre's post-conference interview with Nancy Fraser.