7.1.1 Reasons for Bypassing Governance

Some reasons for bypassing governance are purely pragmatic, including self-protection; sometimes ungoverned power is used for aggression.

Each of the other four dimensions of power is designed to exert collective constraints upon types of behaviour which harm other people.  Breaches of the rules can be prevented or remedied within the relevant dimension – so crime, for example, is met by law enforcement within the Legal Dimension.

There are, though, several reasons for bypassing governance:

●  Self-Protection can be used as a substitute for current governance mechanisms which are deemed insufficiently robust to be relied upon.

●  Ungoverned Power can be used to gain a perceived advantage, in situations where formal governance can be bypassed with impunity. This is particularly common in international relations, where The Economist described The new world disorder:

“the UN is struggling ..[it] is beset by internal problems, by the global struggle to cope with the rise of China, and most of all by the neglect—antipathy even—of the country that was its chief architect and sponsor, the United States.”

●  There are situations where ad hoc peer-to-peer negotiation is more effective than providing formal mechanisms of control.

●  Risk-sharing can sometimes supplement the protection services provided by the established governance mechanisms.

●  Ad hoc responses are necessary in situations where breaches of the governance framework, either by those who have power or by those who are under it, exceed the parameters that it catered for.

The four dimensions of formal governance protect people’s rights against the abuses by others – but individuals, organisations and countries can act as they choose if they can bypass governance.  Individualists in particular may see Ungoverned Power as desirable, but it relies upon an adversarial trial of strength to establish a balance of power so it can result in agreements that would not be considered binding by the weaker party.


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/711a.htm.