Jonathan Malloy's Between Colliding Worlds examines the relationship between governments and external activists through a comparative study of policy units dedicated to aboriginal and women's issues in Australia and Canada. Malloy identifies these units – or 'special policy agencies' – as sitting on the boundary between the world of permanent public servants and that of collective social movements working for broad social and political change. These agencies at once represent the interests of social movements to government while simultaneously managing relations with social movements on behalf of government, and – thus – operate in a state of permanent ambiguity.
Malloy contends that rather than criticizing these agencies for their inherently contradictory nature, we must reconsider them as effectively dealing with the delicate issue of bridging social movements with state politics. In other words, the very existence of these special policy agencies provides a forum for social movements and the state to work out their differences.
Relying heavily on interviews with public servants and external activists, Malloy argues convincingly that special policy agencies, despite – or because of – their ambiguous relationship to different communities, make critical contributions to governance.