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What is “Arctic Governance”? A Critical Assessment of the Diverse Meanings of “Arctic Governance”

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The history of the concept of governance in Arctic social science does not necessarily take into account the process and degree of conceptualization pertaining to the subject or any semantic consistency in its use. Unlike the homogeneous or ‘taken-for-granted’ use of the concept by policy-makers in general, centered on a Westphalian or state-centered understanding of governance, the academic production on Arctic governance is characterized by four categories of approaches – pragmatic, prescriptive, functional and critical – which do not attempt to coincide with disciplinary borders or theoretical framework distinctions. The substantive goals of these approaches differ depending on the context – the likeliness of implementation, compliance with law, efficiency and effectiveness of processes, or the framing or re-framing of issues. Whereas not mutually exclusive, the four approaches contrast in the role they grant to law and normativity in the governance process, as well as in their assessment of effectiveness, and the specificity of the yardsticks used. This diversity leads to very contrasted assessment of governance. Although, economic governance is poorly investigated in governance studies, as well as the diverging views on governance amongst the actors concerned, the concept of governance has provided a valuable tool, affording complementary or contrasting insights, in understanding the state of the Arctic and anticipating its future.


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