The GOVERNANCE blog

Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Levi-Faur on “What is governance?”

LevifaurdavidDavid Levi-Faur of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem responds to Francis Fukuyama’s “What is governance?”

I welcome Francis Fukuyama’s contribution to the broader discussion of governance and development and the effort of Governance editors’ to facilitate discussion. Nonetheless I find myself puzzled by Fukuyama’s definition of governance, his state-centric approach, his focus on capacities rather than on normative theory, and on the neglect of the regulatory governance perspective.

Fukuyama’s defines governance “as a government’s ability to make and enforce rules, and to deliver services, regardless of whether that government is democratic or not”. As the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Governance, I find the definition puzzling. None of the fifty contributors defined governance this way. While it is hard to agree on one definition of governance (and government and the state and autonomy, etc), Fukuyama’s definition of governance is more in tune with the definition of ‘governability’ than with governance.

In their now highly cited review 2004 paper on the subject of governance, Kees Van Karasbergen and Frans Van Waarden suggest that there are some characteristics of governance that are shared by all nine approaches that they identified:

First of all, the approach is pluricentric rather than unicentric. Second, networks, whether inter- or intraorganizational, play an important role. These networks organize relations between relatively autonomous, but interdependent, actors (e.g., business firms in a sector, public and private organizations, EU Member States). In these networks, hierarchy or monocratic leadership is less important, if not absent. The formal government may be involved, but not necessarily so, and if it is, it is merely one – albeit an important – actor among many others. Third, one finds an emphasis on processes of governing or functions as against the structures of government. These processes are relatively similar in the public and private sectors, and concern negotiation, accommodation, concertation, cooperation and alliance formation rather than the traditional processes of coercion, command and control. Fourth, the relations between actors pose specific risks  and uncertainties, and different sectors have developed different institutions to reduce these in order to make cooperation possible or easier. Finally, many approaches are normative. They prescribe an ideal as well as an empirical reality. This holds in particular for the ‘good governance’, ‘corporate governance’, ‘new public management’ and ‘multilevel governance’ approaches” (Kersbergen& van Waarden, 2004, p151-152),

I cite at length because Van Kersbergen and Van Waarden capture the essence of governance. What they said almost a decade ago is still valid. It not only stands in conflict with Fukuyama’s definition of governance but also with his approach. It is not only that Fukuyama focuses on the measurement of governability rather than governance, his state-centric approach to the study of state capacities or governability ignores private actors – business and non-governmental organizations alike, at the domestic and global level. Instead of focusing on capacities of different types of actors working together in a non-hierarchical manner and within networks and within the larger perspective of state-society relations, he focuses his attention on government without regard to the governance literature and perspective it provides.

I am not suggesting that we should ignore the state neither to marginalize it in our analysis. Indeed, together with many others, I l have long advocated astate-centered multilevel governance approach (Levi-Faur, 1999, 201, Börzel, & Risse, 2010). In this approach, neglecting either the state or the private actors in defining capacities or governability would be a futile exercise. One cannot understand the capacity of a state to govern, or to measure that capacity, without taking into account private actors.   A major question on the research agenda of governance scholars is the relative advantages of different architectures of private-public regimes in terms of legitimacy, accountability and governability.  To assess, or evaluate and measure each of the three without attention to the hybrid structures of governance is to miss the larger picture.

In other words, we need measures of governance that take society and the economy into account. State capacities do not exist in separation or insulation from these of the rest of the policy networks.

Fukuyama’s governability definition emphasizes the ability to make rules and enforce them.  But he does not emphasize nor seem to be aware of the literature on the rise of the regulatory state and more generally regulatory capitalism (Levi-Faur, 2005; Braithwaite, 2008). What we see in the last two decades all over the world is the growth, expansion and deepening of regulatory institutions. My work with Jacint Jordana, Xavier Fernandez and others (see bibliography) revealed the extent of transformation of the state and the building of its regulatory capacities at the expense of its service-delivery capacities. I suggest is that these regulatory capacities can and should serve as an infrastructure for the welfare state, the risk state and the developmental state (Levi-Faur, 2013).  Regulatory institutions serve as the critical core of governance; hence we prefer to speak on regulatory governance rather than simply governance or simply regulation.

This approach suggests that a special attention should be given to the regulatory capacities of policy networks and regulatory regimes. It also strongly advocates more attention to the transformation of the Weberian bureaucracy to regulocracy and from a conceptual, theoretical and empirical investment in the study of bureaucratic autonomy in the study of bureaucratic interdependence and regulatory interactions and orchestrations (Abbot and Snidal, 2013).

I do hope that the discussions raised here will continue to facilitate constructive debate. We need more debate on these questions.

Some related works –

Abbott, K. W. and Snidal, D. 2013, Taking responsive regulation transnational: Strategies for international organizations. Regulation & Governance, 7(1), 94-112.

Börzel, T.A. & Risse T. 2010. Governance Without a State – Can It Work? Regulation and Governance 4 (2): 1-22.

Braithwaite, J. 2008. Regulatory Capitalism: How it works, Ideas for Making it Work.

Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Jacint Jordana, D. Levi-Faur and Xavier Fernandez, 2011. The Global Diffusion of Regulatory Agencies: Channels of Transfer and Stages of Diffusion, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 44 (10), 1343-1369.

Kersbergen, K. V. and Waarden, F. V. (2004), ‘Governance’ as a bridge between disciplines: Cross-disciplinary inspiration regarding shifts in governance and problems of governability, accountability and legitimacy. European Journal of Political Research, 43: 143–171.

Levi-Faur, D. 1999. The Governance of Competition: The Interplay of Technology, Economics, and Politics in European Union Electricity and Telecom Regimes. Journal of Public Policy, 19 (2): 175-207.

Levi-Faur, D. 2005. The Global Diffusion of Regulatory Capitalism. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598: 12-32.

Levi-Faur, D. [Ed.] 2011.  Handbook on the Politics of Regulation, Edward Elgar.

Levi-Faur, D. [Ed.] 2012. Oxford Handbook of Governance, Oxford University Press.

Levi-Faur, D.and Jordana, J. (Eds.). 2005. The Rise of Regulatory Capitalism: The Global Diffusion of a New Order. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598

David Levi-Faur’s research focuses on the relations between regulation and capitalism. He is co-editor of Regulation & Governance.  He recently concluded edited two handbooks one on the politics of regulation with Edward Elgar (2011) and the other with Oxford University Press, the Oxford Handbook of Governance (2011).

Written by governancejournal

March 10, 2013 at 7:28 am

Posted in commentary

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