Keywords: nanotechnology, regulation, governance, civil society, legitimacy
Governing nanotechnologies with civility
Nanotechnologies have clearly begun to make their way out of the laboratories and into today's commercial life. While they promise significant benefits to society, their very development and commercialisation appear to be challenging state-based regulatory regimes. With many governments currently appearing to be taking a non-interventionist approach to expressly regulating this technology, it is unsurprising that there is increasing global discourse about how we might best govern certain 'nano-frontiers'. This article argues that in light of the current regulatory status quo, a unique opportunity exists for civil society actors to place themselves at the forefront of the unfolding nano-regulation debate through strategically partnering with other actors. By building on the conceptual model proposed by Brinkerhoff, the article illustrates how civil society actors will, in all likelihood, be central players in governing nanotechnologies. While these arrangements may lack the legitimacy of traditional state-based regulatory approaches, the paper argues that these 'soft' regulatory arrangements will nevertheless be crucial components of the evolving nano-regulatory frameworks.