Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Andrews on “What is governance?”

Matt Andrews of Harvard Kennedy School responds to Francis Fukuyama’s “What is governance?”:

Frank Fukuyama’s article reminds us that we have a long way to go before we fully understand what governance is, let alone how it should be measured. The comments that other scholars have made in response to Fukuyama’s piece reinforce this message and reveal many strong and varied opinions and perspectives on this topic.  This rich discussion stands in contrast to the routine and overly-confident manner in which development organizations and many academics have used governance indicators and treated the concept of governance in recent years. I hope this confidence is tempered in future and that Fukuyama’s central question — What is Governance? — gets the attention it demands.I also like the way Fukuyama attempts to sidestep the normative dimension of the governance discussion and focuses on the way governments function. I know some disagree with this approach but I feel that it is the best way of thinking about the concept in a highly varied world.

I do take issue with the way this article presents critical concepts like capacity and autonomy, however. In my reading the approach here suggests a Weberian state in which the separation of politics and bureaucracy is both possible and positive. It seems to me that governments across the world are simply more complex than this and exist in collaborative relationships where capacity is at least partly a function of the interdependent relationships agencies and organizations foster with other governmental entities, civil society and the local and global private sectors. Politics is central to many of these relationships, which makes autonomy a complex concept and one that is not necessarily positive nor possible for modern governments.

I would love to see continued research into the fundamental questions about governance that Fukuyama is raising; using his basic approach, but taking the complexities of modern government-collaborative and interdependent as such is-into account.

Matt Andrews is an associate professor at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  His book The Limits of Institutional Reform was published in 2012.

Written by governancejournal

March 12, 2013 at 10:52 am

Posted in commentary


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