Local Government as a Social Construction Agent in Transnational Relations: Some Reflections Based on Three Cases in Japan
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This article suggests that local government can help initiate a process of norm shift in world politics. In Japan, transnational issues have brought a new dimension to local communities. In this context, local government occupies a strategic position to act as an intermediate agent in reconnecting citizens with states. On the one hand, local government as part of the state apparatus has a range of political access to national authority. On the other hand, local government is the immediate body that tries to assure individuals’ safety and health in local communities and can be seen as potential partner of civil society groups. Once individuals and domestic groups bypass their own states and directly seek counterpart groups beyond national borders, or establish their alliances with non-national citizens to solve those issues, this strategic position of local government provides political access, leverage, and opportunities to the transnationally connected groups. The transnational advocacy coalitions of civil society groups who work with local governments would create the opportunity structure. Local government has the potential to act as a key agent in converting the moral authority of civil society groups into a source of power to change state policies and practices. The theoretical purpose of this article is to bridge two sets of literatures: the literature on material, utility-based positivism (i.e., neorealism and neoliberalism) in world politics, and the literature on transnationalism and norms (i.e., constructivism) in sociology and international relations. It looks at the interplay of material forces and normative rationality in the process of transnationalization. This study specifically examines the mechanism by which local government may transform its material access and opportunities into a form of power for morally principled coalitions.
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