Networked authority and regionalised governance: Public transport, a hierarchy of documents and the anti-hierarchy of authorship

Alexander Paulsson, Karolina Isaksson, Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Dec 2018
This paper is concerned with the authority of written documents and how these artefacts work as governance devices. Networked authority is introduced as a concept to elucidate how documents accumulate formal power in a collaborative process, where several formally independent but informally interdependent organisations together point out the direction of regional public transport planning in the form of one strategic document. Drawing upon recent research on bureaucracy, authority and documents, the paper empirically explores these connections in the context of public transport in Stockholm, Sweden. Based on this case study, authority was found to be accomplished as the written document reproduced an existing hierarchy of documents, through an anti-hierarchical process where the newly formed Regional Public Transport Authority involved several formally independent but informally interdependent organisations, and by lacking a sole author. These three features are crucial for understanding how a collaborative process erodes individuality and personal responsibility, while producing anonymous, networked authority. These results are discussed in relationship to Foucault’s notion of authorship, the author-function, which is derived from legal–institutional networks, much like networked authority. Understanding how networked authority is accomplished through a hierarchy of documents and an anti-hierarchy of authorship contributes with new knowledge on documents and how these work as governance devices in regional governance.

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