Accueil » 55-4 ( 2000) » E-gouvernance, gouvernementalité et État commutateur

E-gouvernance, gouvernementalité et État commutateur

Gilles Paquet


The new information and communication technologies have transformed the governance of organizations and institutions because of the significant reduction in transaction and organization costs. They have also effected a commutation revolution: relationships between any elements of any set of persons or groups can be maintained, modified, or interrupted at will. This has transformed sets of relationships into active networks capable of accelerating their evolution and self-organization. But it has also generated both a new importance for collaborative governance and a heightened degree of precarity for those partners that are less nimble or likely to adapt more slowly.

What has ensued is a chaordic world (a mix of chaos and order) defined by a new sociality (a different social glue ensuring the stability of networks and groups on the basis of much weaker ties), and new perils for ill-prepared individuals. This in turn has generated the demand for a new sort of State capable of ensuring that the higher risks would be shared somewhat fairly, and of nurturing the requisite degree of trust necessary for collaborative governance to thrive. The sort of State likely to do the job has to find the right balance between the need to protect the persons badly hit by change and the need to help those who require the assistance of the State to ensure the requisite amount of social learning and transformation.

There are two basic reactions to this important challenge of governance. First, the governmentality approach, which is based on the presumption that nothing has fundamentally changed, builds on efforts by the State to use a panoply of instruments to manipulate representations in order to maintain hierarchical control in this turbulent world. This is a strategy based on a perceptive awareness of the fears and anguish of the population, on an apt use of this knowledge to persuade the citizenry that the State has their interests at heart, and on a clever use of instruments to lead them to voluntarily submit to the canonical position of the State and to rationalize their voluntary submission in the name of self-realization.

Second, the social learning approach seeks to achieve dynamical transformation through better use of collective intelligence via distributed governance and a transformed State—what can be termed the Commutator State. This approach is based on a redefinition of the logic underpinning the State: from a logic rooted in a propensity to centralize in order to be able to redistribute to a logic of learning based on the role of die State as facilitator and animateur. It addresses the challenges of e-governance through three complementary strategies: a strategy of connexity in order to prevent exclusion, a strategy of catalysis in order to boost collective intelligence and accelerate social learning, and a strategy of completude in order to engineer new technologies of collaboration in the face of governance fallures.

We argue that the first approach is tempting for State officials who are in denial vis-à-vis the new realities and are crippled by a centralized mindset. However, such a strategy mainly serves to sustain "la raison d'Etat" — a State geared entirely to its own sustenance and for which society is an instrument.

The second approach is more promising but entails the deployment of a distributed governance that clearly challenges the centralized mindset and builds on the best use of collective intelligence and on experimentation. While the second approach is obviously the only viable one, the author warns that one should not underestimate the dynamic conservatism at play and the vulnerability of the citizenry to the manipulation of State officials bent on defending their power. Consequently, although a good argument can be made in favour of the Commutator State, there is still much persuasive power left in the incantations in defense of the Welfare State. Hence the rise of the Commutator State may not be for tomorrow, but only thereafter.


Les nouvelles technologies de l'information et des communications et la révolution commutative sont à la source d'un monde chaordique qui pose le grand défi de l’e-gouvernance. Face à ce défi qui commande un passage de l’État-providence à l’Etat-commutateur, deux grands discours s'affrontent : le discours de la gouvernementalité (efforts pour soumettre ce monde turbulent par la manipulation des représentations) et le discours de l'apprentissage collectif (gouvernance distribuée supportée par des stratégies de connexité, de catalyse et de complétude). On montre que le premier discours amène le citoyen à rationaliser une sorte d'assujettissement volontaire, alors que le second débouche sur une e-gouvernance qui fonde l'État-commutateur sur une socialité nouvelle et de nouvelles formes de collaboration faisant bon usage des nouvelles technologies de l'information et des communications.


Las nuevas tecnologias de information y de comunicacion y la révolution conmutativa son el origen de un mundo "caordico" que plantea el gran desafio del a-gobierno. Ante este desafio que exige un transito del Estado-Providencia al Estado "conmutador", dos grandes discursos se enfrentan : el discurso de la gobernabilidad (esfuerzos por dominar este mundo manipulando las representaciones) y el discurso de aprentisaje colectivo (un gobierno redistribuido soportado por las estrategias de conexidad, de catalisis y completud). Se muestra aqui, que el primer discurso conduce al ciudado a racionalizar un tipo de avasallamiento voluntario, mientras que el segundo lleva a un a-gobierno que érige el Estado-conmutador sobre la base de una nueva sociabilidad y de nuevas formas de colaboracion capaces de hacer un buen uso de las nuevas tecnologias de information y de comunicacion.