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Constructing authority alternatives in Colombia: globalisation and the transformation of governance

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The central theme of this paper is the changing nature of authority relationships prompted by the formation of global authority alternatives and the concomitant erosion in the norm of sovereign exclusivity. Specifically, what institutional arrangements are emerging to replace or complement sovereign authority, and with what consequences for state strength, legitimacy, and governance? It takes up this issue by examining alternatives to sovereign authority in Colombia, where institutions of global and trans-national governance are increasingly enmeshed with the state and local traditions of non-state polities. The weakness of the Colombian state and the associated problems of democratic breakdown, insecurity, and violence are correlated with the persistent contestation of the fundamental rules of social order and authority. This tradition of a poorly consolidated central authority has been exacerbated by global transformations which have eroded the norm of exclusivity. Both developments have been conducive to the construction of direct relationships between civil society and non-state actors at many levels. Whether this transformation in the country's authority map will lead to a further deepening of the current crisis, or be a force for improvement, remains an open question. This article starts with a review of authority and exclusivity as conceptualized within the Westphalian model. It next identifies how new forms of global governance, localization, and trans-national social processes are leading to a multiplicity of authority relationships that compete with and complement that of the nation-state, stressing the importance of causal logics and the practices of civil society to the construction of these alternative relationships. A multi-scale approach is adopted that conceives of new loci of authority as emerging above, alongside, and below the state. The analysis continues with a presentation of the empirical research on emerging spheres of authority in the Colombian case, and of the global and domestic contexts which have increasingly legitimated such non-state polities. It concludes with an assessment of how non-exclusivity has affected state legitimacy and the state-building project in Colombia, and proposes lines of research related to these issues.

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