The microphysics of power as a relational approach to study power relations and change in housing governance networks in Catalonia
Social movements like the Affected by Mortgages Platform (PAH), a Spanish social organization against evictions, have favoured the rise of forces since the early years of the 2008 crisis that are changing the housing policy at Catalonia and its governance network in order to solve the problem of families in housing emergency. However these changes do not have an endogenous nature as the literature of governance network suppose. By contrast, the changes have been induced by new exogenous forces exercised by ‘outsider’ actors (Smith, 1993) motivated by the inability of the network to solve the housing problem.
However, the concept of networks has normative and empirical limits to explain change (Bevir & Rhodes, 2007; Rhodes, 2007). Network analysis tends to emphasize the stability and structure of interactions but leaves out the adjustments resulting from deliberation (Thoenig, 1999 in Cabrero, 2005). Therefore some academics are suggesting a Decentred Analysis that focuses on the relational dynamic that participants of a network have in order to explain how the practices of network governance change (Rhodes, 2007, p. 1252). This approach means that so as to understand networks change, we need first to study the relational dynamics as political processes (Robins, Bates, & Pattison, 2011): a kind of games where actors constantly make and remake processes and structures (Klijn & Teisman, 1997) in a strategic way that creates action meaning (Cohen, March, & Olsen, 2011; DiMaggio & Powell, 1983; Scott, 2008; Sørensen & Torfing, 2008).
So if networks change has to do with multiple relational links between actors, the scenario highlights the natural conflict of our modern societies and therefore supports to focus on power (Flyvbjerg, 1998) and on relation of forces (Deleuze, 2014; Lemke, 2002) that unfolds in the day-by-day politics between participants (Arellano, 2010). Like Rhodes and Marsh have said “To pursue micro-level analysis in order to explore personal networks will provide a wealth of detail” (Marsh & Rhodes, 1992, p. 22).
The microphysics of power is a useful view to explore the relational level of governance networks and to grasp the dynamics of change as mutations of power diagrams (Foucault, 1999, 2009). So in order to discover the driving forces of changes the focus is on powers of resistance: “…only engaging (them) it can be understand the mutation of a diagram. That is why a diagram changed in favor of a new distribution of power relations” (Deleuze, 2014, p. 402). Grounded Theory Methodology (GTM) guides the analysis (Corbin & Strauss, 2008; Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and specifically follows Charmaz constructivist strategy (Bryant & Charmaz, 2007; Charmaz, 2006).
Taking this line to study change on governance networks could contribute to the ‘micro-relational’ approach when showing the influence that relations of force of an ‘outsider’ social group like the Affected by Mortgages Platform (PAH) might have on the governance network around housing at Catalonia and on it participants.