The Mosaic of Governance: Creating a Picture
with Definitions, Theories, and Debates

Robbie Waters Robichau

The popularity of governance can be seen across academic genres. In some ways, the tremendous amount of theorizing on the subject has created contentious areas of debate. However, the approach that I argue will move the discussion forward is a focus on areas of agreement, where studying governance as a form of statecraft is considered. In order to advance the governance conversation, this essay speculates on the intersections of future governance research areas and maintains that making governance studies meaningful involves more empirical testing and inductive explorations by scholars.

The value of governance is that it serves as a central organizing framework (Stoker, 1998); some even argue that there is a specific "logic of governance" that can be empirically examined (Heinrich, Hill, & Lynn, 2004; Hill & Lynn, 2005; Hill & Hupe, 2009; Robichau & Lynn, 2009). Even though scholars have provided a rationale for studying governance, further research in the area is hindered. The broad application of governance meanings and analyzes have rendered it "fashionable . . . imprecise, [and] wooly" (Fredrickson, 2005, p. 289), "shapeless" (Lynn, 2010a), and both ubiquitous and contested (Bevir, 2010). The attractiveness of governance stems from its applicability to various social science discourses and global practices, though this popularity comes at a cost. General understanding of governance remains elusive, leaving the scholarly community with a legacy of misunderstanding and theoretical imprecision that hampers the development of a complete picture of governance.

Although it is less noted in theoretical discussions, the governance phenomenon flourishes in many academic fields. Beyond some of the more traditionally associated fields (e.g., public policy and administration, political science, and business), governance research encompasses work in a diverse array of academic disciplines such as anthropology (see Eckert, Dafinger, & Behrends, 2003; Higgins & Lawrence, 2005; Raeymaekers, Menkhaus, & Vlassenroot, 2008; Shore & Wright, 1997) and geography (e.g., see Herod, Tuathail, & Roberts, 1998; Seldadyo, Elhorst, & De Haan, 2010; Sparke, 2006; Wójcik, 2006). In some instances, theory development and research in these fields rely on contrasting assumptions of governance. These differences bring with them the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration where adherence to academic silos may no longer be necessary. However, examining governance from an interdisciplinary approach would be a fruitful endeavor for another paper.

As a field of academic study, governance is ripe for expansion. Global studies in governance are increasing, and yet, its assimilation into the disciplines reinforces the field's problematic heritage. Governance scholarship is reaching a critical point where cohesion among and within academic domains is justified. Regardless of where one falls on the governance spectrum, the central questions remaining to be answered are: what exactly is governance and how are scholars studying it and practitioners experiencing it? In answering these questions two conceptual parameters will be employed: first, only literature from the public domains will be applied, and secondly, the focus will be upon the most recent governance literature (i.e., materials mostly written in the last three years). Confining this essay to work in the public sphere of the last few years does bring with it certain limitations. The purpose of this exercise and journal issue is to frame policy research from the perspective of new scholars to the field; therefore, I have chosen to focus on breadth over depth. A number of interesting governance topics will not be discussed in this paper although they are worthy of attention (e.g., delineating public from private actors and actions in governance models or issues of legality and legitimacy of governance mechanisms).

The intention of this essay is to show that the complexity of governance conversations should not inhibit scholars from reaching some level of consensus that will enable the field to advance a research agenda; furthermore, emphasizing the art form of governing may prove to be a critical component of progressing governance scholarship. Developing this argument entails three processes. The first approach is to introduce the subject of governance with an overview of definitional differences and then to review the persistent debates in the literature. The second method is to establish a foundation of agreement through the lens of the modes of governance. Accordingly, reaching clarity in governance research revolves around scholars' abilities to move theories and practices forward beyond classifications and generalizations and towards a productive research agenda. With this challenge in mind, the final portion of this essay speculates on the intersections of future governance research areas and argues for the importance of making governance studies meaningful through empirical testing and inductive explorations.

The Meaning(s) of Governance

As with many debated topics, the source of confusion in governance begins with its definition. Over the last several decades, governance has been given multiple meanings and special significance beyond the standard dictionary definition, which has not proven to be advantageous (Hughes, 2010). As an illustration, 50 separate governance concepts are described by Bevir (2009) and this array of governance usages creates additional obstacles for researchers (Bevir, 2009, 2010). One way to counter-balance complexity is to focus on commonalities. Thus, many theorists reason that governance describes something broader than government (Bevir, 2010; Denhardt & Denhardt, 2007; Jordan, 2008; Kjær, 2004; Milward & Provan, 2000); however, Bevir warns that this logic does not give theoretical license to reduce government to a mere "hollow shell" (2010, p. 255). With this in mind, we begin our search for a governance definition through examining commonalities, while acknowledging the existing role of government in governance as well.

Defining governance frequently involves the use of words like networks, rules, steering, order, control, new, good and corporate governance, governing, and authority. Many turn to the dictionary as a point of reference for explaining governance. In paraphrasing dictionary meanings, Lynn (2010c) defines governance as "the action or manner of governing—that is, of directing, guiding, or regulating individuals, organizations, or nations in conduct or actions" (p. 671). A broad definition like this allows for the conceptual application of governance to micro and macro levels. In a similar manner, Hughes (2010) combines the Latin word gubernare and dictionary meanings into a working definition where governance is "about running organizations, about steering as in the original derivation, how to organize, and how to set procedures for an organization to be run" (p. 88). These definitions provide a map for navigating governance meanings, but there are other useful phrases that provide insight of what governance is about including: "ordered rule" and "collective action or decision making" (e.g., Ansell & Gash, 2008; Löffler, 2009; Milward & Provan, 2000; Stoker, 1998, 2004), "all patterns of rule" whether formal or informal (e.g., Bevir, 2009, 2010; Imperial, 2005; Löffler, 2009), and "exercise of authority" (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2007; Stivers, 2008). The quest for a mutually agreed upon definition seems unlikely; furthermore, it could be argued that the persistent debates in governance are spurred on by conceptual ambiguity in the first place.

Rediscovering Governance as Statecraft

One pragmatic and underutilized expression for describing governance is that of art.1 Another way to express the art of governing is "statecraft." Camilla Strivers' work, Governance in Dark Times, provides a timely and much needed discussion of why applying elements of statecraft to governance inquiry matters. Stivers (2008) reveals that at one time the term governance simply implied statecraft. Statecraft can be characterized as the "exercise of distinctively governmental responsibilities" and as "the art of acting according to duty, justice, and reason on behalf of a community of citizens" (Stivers, 5 italics added). As a result, public policy and administration should be based on higher ideals like that of truth, fairness, and democracy. Stivers informs us that we—citizens, politicians, and administrators—are all faced with the challenge of living through "dark times" of governance. She presents the tragic events following 9/11 like the war in the Middle East and the U.S. torture scandals are evidence of a fundamental darkness in policy and administration. The most telling contention made by Stivers regards the root cause of governance problems i.e., the loss of the public realm where authentic dialogue and disagreement could take place.

Stivers calls for a renewal in public life that represents interpersonal connections between public servant ethos, publicly-spirited dialogues, institutional forms, and individual citizens that enable the practice of democracy in public spaces once again. Her arguments remind us that the exercise of true statecraft or governance mandates the integration of democratic principles with creative solutions in order to solve policy problems. Governance requires an adherence to a state's rules and constitutional arrangements while simultaneously calling for its administrators, politicians, and citizenry to be accountable to one another. The time has come where the idea of statecraft of governance theories and practices needs to return.

The Axis of Disagreement: Persistent Debates

Academic discourse, democratic practices, and politics are all shaped by how the governance story unfolds (Bevir, 2010; Hysing, 2009). Many well-intentioned scholars try to formulate governance theories and framework that will refine our knowledge of governance; and yet, the total effect of these interpretations seems to reinforce disagreement and undermine theoretical advances. To complicate matters, the underlying assumptions of governance explanations often vary between European and American scholars establishing additional inconsistencies. These differences can be implicit and problematic to identify (for explanation of differences, see Bevir, Rhodes, & Weller, 2003; Lynn, 2006; Skelcher, 2007). Despite variations in the governance narrative between continents and sub-fields, the essential governance debates in the public sphere remain very similar. As an organizing principle, governance assumptions operate at both local and global levels; however, the ability to apply these theories to multiple contexts can sharpen controversy. Several of the current and unsettled themes found in governance literature will be considered below.

Is Governance Eclipsing Government?

The concept of governance is not new (Bevir, 2009; Lynn, 2010c; Osborne, 2010), and as some observe, it is as old as government itself (Peters & Pierre, 1998). While this may be true, scholarly debates in governance persist. When it comes to answering whether governance movements are more important than government's role, many scholars take this issue to heart and choose sides. On one hand, there are those who maintain that current governance trends (e.g., governance as networks) are new and distinctive from the past (Bang & Esmark, 2009; Bevir, 2010; Bevir & Rhodes, 2003, 2006; Goldsmith & Eggers, 2004; Kooiman, 1993, 2010; Osborne, 2010; Rhodes, 1996, 1997; Salamon, 1989, Salamon & Elliott, 2002). While on the other hand, theorists wishing to preserve the historical traditions of governance, question the validity a new and transformational form of governing (Bell & Hindmoor, 2009; Bovaird & Löffler, 2009; Heinrich, Lynn, & Milward, 2010; Heinrich et al., 2004; Hughes, 2010; Jordan, Wurzel, & Zito, 2005; Lynn, 2010b, 2010c; Marinetto, 2003; Olsen, 2006; Taylor, 2007). Lynn (2010b) even refers to an emerging "new skepticism" where "the new (public) governance is, at best, a highly nuanced and qualified story" (pp. 117–118). The subtleties of this debate can be captured by two facets. Primarily, is there sufficient evidence to argue for a new form of governance that surpasses government; and consequentially, are paradigmatic changes occurring in favor of a governance movement.

The evidence on a universal switch from governmental systems to governance structures is imprecise and doubtful. A state-centric and society-centric approach best describe scholarly viewpoints of the state in this matter. The state-centric perspective maintains that the state retains its power as the chief actor and center of society, while the society-centric position contends that the state is being hollowed out, decentered, and thus, is progressively relying upon non-state actors to fulfill its duties (Jordan, 2008). The latter approach lends itself to the notion that new forms of governing are materializing. The question, however, over which approach most accurately illustrates reality, remains unanswered (Jordan, 2008). Thus, some theorists take a more neutral stance between the state- versus society-centric approach. For example, Bell and Hindmoor (2009) propose a "state-centric relational" method for specifying governance interactions where the state leads as the central authority and controller of governing capacities; nonetheless, the state also takes a "relational" approach that involves expanding new and strategic relationships with other non-state actors. In this manner, the state attempts to "govern better rather than less" (Wallington, Lawrence, & Loechel, 2008, p. 3) through deliberate alliances.

There are some who choose not to weigh in on the state- or society-centric discussion of governance altogether. They hold strong to their conviction that without evidence, the presence of new governance forms are nothing more than pure scholarly debate (Lynn, 2010a). Similarly, these voices have reservations about the ability of governance to eclipse government (Bell & Hindmoor, 2009; Hysing, 2009; Jordan, 2008; Lynn, 2010a,b, 2010c). Perhaps, Heinrich, Lynn, and Milward best summarize this position:

There is little meaningful debate over whether the changes in governance are in fact occurring . . . unfortunately, the profession is much better at proclaiming "the new" than at making evidence-based arguments . . . [and] the new is seldom viewed as a consequence of a historical or path-dependent logic of change (2010, pp. i9–i12).

Undeniably, the suggestion of using a path-dependent logic of governmental change deserves more attention in the literature. Kjær (2004) concludes, "in all, governance does not take place without government, and governance theory should leave the role of the state open to empirical investigation rather than simply assume that the role is declining" (p. 204). Kjær's warnings and new governance skepticism in the field (Lynn, 2010b) suggests that more time and research is needed, if we want to claim with any certainty that governance is the new form of government.

A second approach for tackling the governance eclipsing government question hinges on whether paradigmatic changes from new public management to public governance have occurred. Just as some proclaim the new is being ushered in too soon, others see a clear distinction between new public management and (new) public governance paradigms (Bevir, 2010; Klijn, 2008, 2010; Osborne, 2010). A change in paradigmatic frameworks, so the argument goes, indicates that something original and distinctive may be transpiring. Bovaird and Löffler (2009) argue that public policy paradigms have evolved significantly over the last thirty years from "old public administration" that has been partly replaced by "new public management" and now to a "public governance" perspective. However, they note that certain aspects of each approach still remain in most countries and it is hard to say if, or when, there will be a singular viewpoint on the subject.

One emerging paradigm, espoused by Stephen Osborne (2010) and his colleagues, is "new public governance" (NPG). Grounded in institutional and network theory, the NPG model accounts for the complexities associated with both "a plural state, where multiple interdependent actors contribute to the delivery of public services, and a pluralist state, where multiple processes inform the policy-making system" (Osborne, 2010, p. 9). Osborne's NPG offers scholars an alternative perspective with the capacity to analyze the intricacies of design, delivery, and management of present-day public services in areas where public administration and new public management frameworks have failed to do so.2 Hence, the debate over evidence is somewhat skirted in favor of a distinctive perspective that broadly examines the governance literature. It will be interesting to see if others adopt the NPG point of view and apply it to their research.

Are Governance and Networks One in the Same?

The role that networks play in governance lingers at the forefront of debates. One of the leading scholars in the area, Erik-Hans Klijn, reviewed the prior ten years of European literature on governance. One of his boldest and most controversial claims is that it is no longer necessary to distinguish between governance and governance networks since "governance is the process that takes place within governance networks" (2008, p. 511). Expanding upon his claim, Klijn later asserts that, "[a]t best, we can make a faint distinction by saying that governance relates to the interaction process (and its guidance), while networks relate to the empirical phenomenon that policy issues are solved within networks of actors" (2010, p. 305). Correspondingly, Klijn's network approach and Osborne's NPG paradigm both consider the processes and relationships of governance as distinctive from past perceptions of government. Other noteworthy scholars see a strong connection between networks and governance practices (Agranoff, 2007; Bevir, 2010; Kooiman, 2003; Löffler, 2009; Martin, 2010; O'Toole & Meier, 2010; Rhodes, 1997; Sørensen & Torfing, 2007).

The popularity of networks as the predominant or only form of governance, however, brings forth serious administrative issue that needs to be considered. In his attempt to address some of the administrative concerns of networks, Stoker (2006) proposes that network governance produces a specific management model. His "public value management" paradigm is distinguishable from traditional public administration and existing public management archetypes because it respects the relationships people form in networked atmospheres. Stoker's approach considers the meaning of politics in managing public services while accounting for public service ethos, democratic practices, and managerial roles. Comparably, Jackson (2009) contends that the future role of government will be to function as a "broker" between public and private sectors and "relationship management [will be] central to public governance" (p. 39). If governments are to act as middle-men between networks and other governing forms, then the need for statecraft and public sector values becomes paramount. There is no consensus on whether governance networks are as pervasive as some claim; nevertheless, the administrative implications of these governance forms may prove to be highly problematic and rife with undemocratic practices. Like Stiver's, Stoker and Jackson also see the need for incorporating the art form and values of governing back into the governance as networks conversation.

Can Governance be Put Into a Typology?

When a theoretical concept is in a state of flux, the natural scholarly reaction is to try and simplify that idea by constructing descriptive categories. Governance epitomizes an example of why typologies are necessary. In order to build an understanding of the global governance labyrinth, numerous individuals have developed categories for how others are studying governance so that ideological congruence may be reached. Table 1 shows that labels and language of governance typologies vary, but their underlying meanings do not. This is not to say that the authors used in this demonstration would entirely agree with the comparisons of their classifications of governance research to one another; however, when their descriptions are evaluated more carefully, they appear to be more similar than contradictory.

The benefits of analytical frameworks are that they give students of governance a place to begin. However, failure to agree upon the same language to explain the same phenomenon generates unnecessary theoretical hurdles in the literature. Subsequently, we are left with a logical background for describing how governance is being studied internationally, but without the proper language to articulate our framework to others.

How does Democracy Fit Into the Governance Picture?

Arguably, one of the most significant conversations demanding scholarly consideration today focuses on democratic practices in public governance systems (Bevir, 2010; Catlaw, 2007; Hendriks, 2009; Lynn, 2010c; Meuleman, 2008; Skelcher, 2007; Sørensen, 2006; Wallington & Lawrence, 2008). In a pluralistic world, where the state must coordinate and direct a web of governing relationships and devolved processes, alarm is being raised as to who and how governance will be governed. The phrase scholars have employed to convey the "governance of governance" is meta-governance. Meta-governance is defined as the "process of steering devolved governance processes" and is "directed at controlling the environment of action in the public sector, rather than controlling that action directly" (Peters, 2010, pp. 37–38). Peters maintains that choosing strategies of meta-governance symbolizes "an attempt to reassert some balance of power with the policy-making system of the public sector, and to continue to involve non-state actors in the process while recognizing the primacy of politics" (p. 48). Meta-governance implies the necessity for some level of governmental involvement in governance structures and processes.


Bell and Hindmoor (2009, p. 47) utilize the acronym of SERDAL (i.e., steering, effectiveness, resourcing, democracy, accountability, and legitimacy) to explain the 6 main functions of meta-governance. These authors acknowledge that democracy is a vital component of meta-governance.

Many argue that governance and democracy can work better when citizens are consistently engaged and consulted in the process and throughout public dialogues and debates (Bang, 2004; Bevir, 2006, 2010; Catlaw, 2009; Sørensen, 2002; Stivers, 2008; Stoker, 2004; Wallington & Lawrence, 2008). However, there are those who note that even now, meta-governance and public governance perspectives require democratic accountability, direction, equity, and legitimate constitutional arrangements (see Bell & Hindmoor, 2009; Bogason & Musso, 2006; Lynn, 2010b; Peters, 2010). Kjær (2004) cautions us not to forget that "governance is not equal to democracy" (p. 170). Likewise, Bevir (2010) argues that governance in effect "undermines old expressions of representative democracy" (p. 2). Thus, the charge then becomes how to maintain democratic institutions in a world of governance rather than a world full of governments.

Reaching a Consensus: The Modes of Governance

In some ways, the tremendous amount of theorizing on the subject has created contentious areas of debate. However, the approach that I argue will move the discussion forward is a focus on areas of agreement, where studying governance as a form of statecraft is considered. We can uncover a domain of agreement based on the mechanisms of or patterns of rule in the governance. Three of the most commonly discussed resource allocation mechanisms of governance are networks, hierarchies, and markets (Dixon & Dogan, 2002; Jordan, 2008; Kjær, 2004; Lynn, 2011; Osborne, 2010). Bell and Hindmoor's (2009) state-centric relational approach incorporates persuasion (i.e., how governments persuade behavioral changes in their citizens) and community engagement as other forms of governance (see also Löffler, 2009). Kooiman (2010, p. 79) describes what others call "modes" of governance as "sub- systems of the governing system" where the main components are states, markets, civil society, and hybrids (i.e., the intersections of the state, markets, and civil society). In sum, Löffler suggests that for there to be good governance there must be good government. As such, the state must initially answer what its role should be in various contexts (e.g., as co-producer or as sole supplier of services), and then, choose the best mechanism—via networks, hierarchies, or markets—for properly dealing with problems (2009, pp. 229–230). The following sections will review the three most common modes or subsystems of governance.


Networks have been hailed as creating space for innovation, reciprocity, trust, and self-organization (Agranoff, 2003; Bevir, 2010; Bogason & Musso, 2006). However, networks are problematic because they raise issues of equality, accountability, democratic legitimacy, and equity (Bogason & Musso, 2006; Eikenberry, 2007; Hendriks, 2009; Kjær, 2004). The study of networks as a form of governance is worthy of a separate review itself, for just as governance is surrounded with definitional and categorical debates, so too are discussions around networks. Given this, the aim here is to briefly focus on networks as a mode of governance. To the extent that governance means governance networks (Klijn, 2008, 2010; see also Rhodes, 1996), then the ways in which networks are conceptualized and explained makes a difference for how the broader topic of governance can be understood. Klijn (2008) asserts that three traditions of governance networks exist: policy networks, interorganizational service delivery and policy implementation, and governing networks. Each network type is distinctive with individual origins and focuses.

In a somewhat similar discussion of governance and networks, the recently released edited volume of The New Public Governance (2010), assesses "interorganizational networks" (see Klijn, 2010; O'Toole & Meier, 2010; Martin, 2010) and "policy networks" (see Jung; Huys & Koopenjan, 2010; and Acevedo & Common, 2010) as some of the key elements of governance. In the governance literature many refer to Rhodes' classic description of governance that centers upon the managing and steering of "self-organizing, interorganizational networks" (1996, p. 660; see also Bevir & Rhodes, 2003; Jann, 2003). Others, however, create their own descriptions of governance networks as being a "relatively institutionalized frameworks of negotiated interaction within which different actors struggle with each other, create opportunities for joint decisions, forge political compromises and coordinate concrete actions" (Sørensen & Torfing, 2007, p. 27).

At the broadest level, networks simply explain groups of interdependent actors and their existing relationships (Bevir, 2009, p. 137). Despite the most simplistic definition of networks, it remains a complex topic in the literature. Catlaw (2009) asserts that the metaphor of a network has been used to such an extent that it is hard to know what people are talking about when they use it. Hughes (2010), citing from the work of Pollitt (2003) and Mintzberg (2000), argues that the network approach can be "unsatisfying", "over-done", and "overblown" (pp. 97–101). However, as an "organizing principle or as one approach to governing," networks do have some redeeming utility (Hughes, 2010, p. 101). Lynn discusses the work of Fredrickson as an attempt to "both narrow and make more precise the concept of governance in order to rescue it from the oblivion of meaninglessness that is the fate of fashionable new concepts" (Lynn, 2010c, p. 677). Furthermore, Fredrickson divides the networks aspect of governance into three parts: "vertical and horizontal interjurisdictional and interorganizational cooperation; third-party governance; [and lastly as] public non-governmental governance" (2005, pp. 294–95). His depiction of networks demonstrates how the network literature could be used to inform the governance literature.

Perhaps, one of the best ways to conclude the network discussion is to connect it with a line of inquiry that captures the perplexity of networks. In 2009, Aaron Wachhaus (2009) surveyed ten of the top tier journals and 125 articles in public administration including two policy journals, from 1987 through 2006, looking for coherence and fragmentation in the network literature.3 Through the use of discourse analysis, Wachhaus creates a scheme of the top 31 attributes of networks composed of only those characteristics which appear in more than 10 percent of the surveyed literature. Only after this is Wachhaus able to develop a minimal definition of networks that encompasses seven attributes needed for a general discussion of public administration networks (pp. 70–1) (i.e., exchange, interaction, interdependency, complex, and nonhierarchical-occurring in the arena of governance and policy). Due to the highly fragmented nature of the network literature, Wachhaus calls for more academic rigor, consistency, and clarity on the subject of networks. As both governance and network literatures have been flooded with definitions, conceptualizations, and highly contextual applications their usefulness wanes.


There are a handful of social scientists who speculate, and in certain cases downplay the relevance of hierarchy, usually favoring governance from a more horizontal and fragmented system perspective (Bogason & Musso, 2006; Klijn, 2008, 2010; Sørensen, 2002; Sørensen & Torfing, 2007). Some go a step further by questioning the abilities of structures in institutional hierarchy to cope with current societal complexities like rapid technological advances and cultural diversity (Bogason & Musso, 2006). Conversely, a select few scholars argue that hierarchy still prevails in many democratic nations and policy domains, and therefore, deserves recognition as an effective tool of governments (Bell & Hindmoor, 2009; Kjær, 2004; Lynn, 2011). Lynn points to two main perspectives in the literature on hierarchy. In one scenario hierarchy is conceptualized as "rationalized instrument of authority", and in the other, hierarchy is seen as an "institutionalized expression of liberal democratic principles of accountability" (Lynn, 2011, p. 229). From his studies, Lynn is concludes that the abandonment of hierarchy would require a reconstitution or modifications of representative institutions, which has yet to appear in democratic societies.

Contrary to popular positions of many governance theorists, Bell and Hindmoor (2009) declare a resurgence of hierarchy as a governing mechanism; especially in light of research on the growth of the "regulatory state" (see also Light, 2008; Lynn, 2010a; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2009). They cite the use of hierarchical solutions to new policy problem in such areas as smoking, terrorism, illegal immigration, or obesity (e.g., the ban on junk food in schools) as evidence of the presence of hierarchies in modern-day society. Undeniably, it would be challenging to imagine a form of government where hierarchy did not exist in at least some fashion. Lynn (2011) takes a similar stance as Bell and Hindmoor maintaining that there is even a "logic of hierarchy's persistence" which he equates with a "logic of continued evolution of a fundamentally useful institution of representative democracy" (p. 233). Kjær (2004) too notes that the abandonment of hierarchical models can be misleading for three reasons: (i) representative democracies are still built upon this model; (ii) it is possible for hierarchies and networks to coexist or overlap; and (iii) hierarchy allows for the coordination and monitoring of networks (pp. 42–4).

Other benefits of hierarchy include accountability, specialization, and rationalization (Bevir, 2009). The problem that some social scientists see with hierarchy in the new governance model is when excessive layering leads to unresponsiveness, inflexibilities, and inefficiencies (Bevir, 2009). However, the challenges that hierarchy may present to a highly developed, globalized, and technologically advanced society have yet to lead governments to abandon its use as a governing tool.


A third prevalent application of a governance tool is that of the markets. In this review, governance by markets describes the strategic ways governments employ public-private partnerships, collaborative association, outsourcing, contractual relationships, and third-party government as a way to fulfill their purposes. The increasing use of market solutions by governments has been depicted as "governmentaliz[ing] the private sector" (Kettl, 1993, p. 14), "commercialization of government" (Bell & Hindmoor, 2009, p. 17), the "marketization" of government (see Keating, 2004, p. 6), "managerialism" (Kjær, 2004, p. 25), and overall privatization. A reliance of government on markets via private and nonprofit sectors can be attributed to the new public management movement (Kjær, 2004; Lynn, 2010b) and rational choice theory (Bevir, 2010). The diversity of governing provisions within market arrangements is copiously discussed in the literature (e.g., Ansell & Gash, 2008; Bertelli & Smith, 2010; Greve & Hodge, 2010; Hysing, 2009; Imperial, 2005; Johnston, Nan, Hicks & Auer, in press; Kettl, 2010; McBeath & Meezan, 2010; McQuaid, 2010; Smith & Smyth, 2010).

The proclaimed benefits of these types of governing relationships can be concisely summarized as the three Es: economy, efficiency, and effectiveness (Kjær, 2004; Rhodes, 1997). In Ansell and Gash's (2008) meta-analysis of 137 cases of collaborative governance, they uncover that some of the crucial factors for producing successful collaboration include face-to-face dialogue, trust building, cultivated commitments, and shared understanding. Conversely, they also find that collaboration can fail in instances of distrust, lack of commitment, and when the process is manipulated by powerful stakeholders (p. 561).

Market types of governing relationships require government to take on the role as "smart-buyer" of private services (Kettl, 1993), "broker" (Jackson, 2009), and "manager" (Bell & Hindmoor, 2009) between the various sectors. It may be true that different types of government and private sector relationships require different types of management. For example, Bevir (2010) associates project management with contracting out while process management is needed for partnerships. Essentially, governing by markets requires the state to be proactive in how it manages and coordinates its multifarious relationships as well as how it establishes desired outputs and outcomes. It must be acknowledged that market, government, and policy failures exist so the necessity for proper management becomes paramount. Jackson (2009) states that "both markets and public bureaucracies are flawed institutions" (p. 30) consequently "relationship management is central to public governance" (p. 39). When it comes to contracting-out services, governments must focus on performance and results with "twenty-first-century approaches to govern effectively the realities of its twenty-first-century governmental tools" (Kettl, 2010, p. 252). Salamon states that governments new role in governance is one of a "balance wheel" (2002, p. 209).

The Research Challenge: Theory-Grounded Evidence

Developing research exists that moves past the questions of whether governance is new and towards a more focused research agenda in substantive policy areas. The literature seems to establish that governance is not a new concept (e.g., Kooiman, 2003; Lynn, 2010c); however, what remains to be unearthed is how new and proposed practices of governance are being implemented and managed globally and locally. Moreover, there is an obligation to demonstrate why theorists benefit from conducting governance over government research (Fredrickson, 2005).

There are individuals who have begun applying governance theories and frameworks to an array of public policy areas in an effort to conduct translatable research. Scholars can turn to these recent studies as examples for how to approach their own research agendas in governance.

One growing area of governance research examines sustainability and innovation. For instance, Jordan et al. (2005) review the utilization of "new" environmental policy instruments (NEPIs) to determine changes from government to governance in eight industrialized nations (all from Europe, except for Australia) and the EU environmental policy sector. Hysing (2009) sets out to empirically test the rhetorical device of government to governance in the policy realm of Swedish forestry and transportation. His conclusion is that changes are occurring in both directions of more and less government or governance. Similar to these studies, Jordan (2008) maintains there is sufficient research to start building a bridge between governance and sustainable development literatures (see also Glasbergen, Biermann, & Mol, 2007). Likewise, Moore and Hartley (2010) argue that public sector governance innovations are transpiring globally and thus deserve attention from governance scholars across policy domains.

Another growing area of interest targets developing measures of good governance. For example, some scholars have started researching casual linkages in economic growth rates and good governance measures globally (Kurtz & Schrank, 2007) while others call for the need of benchmarking "good local governance" practices in governments (Bovaird & Loffler, 2002). Governance research can also be expanded by incorporating gender analysis theories and frameworks in exposing the plurality of various governance spheres (Panda, 2008). And finally, other theorists are concerned with the broader societal implications of governance failures (Dixon & Dogan, 2002; Jessop, 2004; Nickel & Eikenberry, 2007; Stivers, 2008) and dark networks (Raab & Milward, 2003; Milward & Raab, 2006).

There is a strong desire among academics to make governance research more meaningful and complete by conducting empirical studies on the tangible practices of governance (e.g., see Heinrich et al., 2010; Jordan, 2008; Jordan et al., 2005; Kjær, 2004; Lynn, 2010a, 2010c). Theories and analytical frameworks are most useful when they can be applied to practical policy and managerial problems. Osborne (2010, p. 416) argues for an open, natural systems approach to studies of new public governance that takes "the public service system"—public policy processes, public service organizations, technologies, management, and networks, and all interrelationships—into account as the unit of analysis. Löffler (2009) also notes that governance theorists must be cognizant of the interactions and negotiations taking place in policy systems at both the local and international levels. Future governance research will require a broad and systemic approach to answer the biggest questions in the field. In 2010, both Heinrich et al. and Osborne urged scholars to answer their lists of several questions concerning governance. In essence, multiple research agendas exist for conducting significant and evocative research in governance. All the fields need are for those proposals to be taken up and studied.

Perhaps, one of the most insightful lines of inquiry, that has not filtrated governance literatures, may tie back into the notion of art or statecraft. In a world where statecraft is practiced, governance transcends theoretical questions and debates in lieu of a higher purpose: the exercise of democracy. Stivers (2008) calls for a "governance of the common ground" that results from consistent application of democratic practices over time involving "many small steps—discussions, actions, stories, practices, shared understandings—in the direction of democracy" (pp. 117–20). The paradox of governance is resolving what is with what should be. Conceivably, we as scholars fall short by examining governance from a perspective of finite processes and structures of governing, managing, leading, and representing, rather than from a holistic approach emphasizing democratic ideals and practices at every meaningful opportunity.

Robbie Waters Robichau is a fourth year doctoral student in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. Her areas of research include governance, child welfare policy, organizational change, and nonprofit management. Her dissertation focuses on governance and managerial issues in the public and private provision of foster care services.


I would like to thank Larry Lynn for the support he provided throughout the development of this paper. His comments, along with those of an anonymous reviewer, provided critical feedback that helped improve my examination of governance.

  1. There is some work that considers how the notion of art plays into governance (e.g., The Art of Governance edited by Ingraham & Lynn, 2004), but this perspective does not seem to be the norm.
  2. Osborne (2010, p. 10) provides a useful chart that contrasts NPM, PA, and NPG based on 7 core elements (i.e., theoretical roots, nature of the state, focus, emphasis, resource allocation mechanism, nature of the service system, and value base).
  3. For inquiring minds, Wachhaus surveyed PAR, JPART, A&S, ARPA, IJPA, PS, PSJ, PAQ, JPAM, & PPMR.
  4. There may be some concerns about the discrepancies between Pierre and Peters' distinction between the Ètatiste and State-centric models. I tried to stay true to how various authors discussed the term more than how they labeled it. For example, Pierre and Peters describe the Ètatiste model as "government [as] the principal actor for all aspects of governance and can control the manner in which the social actors are permitted to be involved, if they are at all" (Pierre & Peters, 2005, p. 11). This view seems similar to how Lynn (2010c) and Osborne (2010) describe administrative and multilevel governance. Pierre and Peters explain the State-centric approach as "the state remains at the center of the process, but institutionalizes its relationships with societal actors" (p. 11). In this vein, Lynn and Osborne refer to socio-political and new governance in the same manner, and thus, it was categorized in this manner. For each author's explanation of models see Lynn (2010c, pp. 674–81), Osborne (pp. 6–7), and Pierre and Peters (pp. 11–12).


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