, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 115-128,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Trust as Glue in Nanotechnology Governance Networks

Abstract

This paper reflects on the change of relations among participants in nanotechnology governance through their participation in governance processes such as stakeholder dialogues. I show that policymaking in practice—that is, the practice of coming and working together in such stakeholder dialogues—has the potential for two-fold performative effects: it can contribute to the development of trust and mutual responsibility on the part of the involved actors, and it may bring about effects on the formation of boundaries of what is sayable and thinkable in nanotechnology governance. Three vignettes about the work of the German NanoKommission indicate the development of new relations of trust, recognition and mutual responsibility among actors. It is concluded that governance in practice can assemble new collectives in which relations of trust are the glue holding the complex structure together. While such a consensus-based progress may be favourable for smooth technology development, it can be considered problematic if evaluated against the ideals of deliberative democracy, which often form the premises on which public engagement is based. Stakeholder forums were set in place with the intention of including various actors, but this is Janus-faced: if a dialogue becomes encapsulated in new governance networks, new exclusions can arise. For example, a policing of which information is released to a wider audience can occur.