Reconstructing governability: How fisheries are made governable
Governability is an important concept in the political and environmental social sciences with increasing application to socio-ecological systems such as fisheries. Indeed, governability analyses of fisheries and related systems such as marine-protected areas have generated innovative ways to implement sustainability ideals. Yet, despite progress made, we argue that there remain limitations in current conceptions of governability that hinder further analytical development and use. By drawing on general systems theory—specifically cybernetics, control and feedback—we interrogate the conceptual foundations that underpin two key limitations: the need to incorporate the numerous variables that comprise a complex, holistic system into a singular assessment of governability, and the a priori separation of the governor and the governed that precludes analysis of a self-governing situation. We argue that by highlighting the reciprocal nature of a governor–governed relationship and the co-produced understanding of governing capacity and objects, a relational approach to governability is possible. This offers a clearer and more pragmatic understanding of how governors and fishers can make fisheries governable.