#5PAPERS – Week 4 Day 2

by Nivek K Thompson

  1. Reference to the Article 

Kuma, C. (2015). 21st century Debate on Government verus Governance. International Journal of Research, 2(06), 695-706.

  1. What attracted me to this Article?

For some time I’ve felt that the concept of governance is relevant to my research which is why I’ve been collecting papers that discuss governance in the context of democracy or governing. This particular paper appears to be a recent ‘review’ article canvasing the various meanings of governance, so I’m hoping it will provide me with an overview of the field and point me in the direction of other useful references.

  1. What is it about? (Problem / Purpose / Research Questions)

Kumar is undertaking a review of the concept of governance and comparing its operation with the more traditional government.

  1. Where does this come from? (Literature / Theoretical Framework)

This work is principally a literature review.

  1. What did they do? (Methodology & Method)

This work is principally a literature review.

  1. What did they learn? (Results / Discussion)

Kumar identifies the early use of the term ‘governance’ in 1972 by Cleveland who saw governance as being about networks rather than hierarchies making decisions.

He notes that the World Bank first used the term in 1989 and links its usage to the ‘ascendance of neo-liberal ideology’ from the 1970s p.696. The World Bank’s initial usage of the term appears to relate primarily to the concept of ‘good governance’ as opposed to poor governance arising from corruption and lack of accountability (amongst other things).

Kumar suggests that ‘new theories and new world of governance pose problems for representative democracy.’ p.698, although he isn’t explicit about how it does this.

He identifies (using Bevir’s 2010 book) a number of ‘theories of governance’:

  • Rational choice
  • Institutionalism
  • Systems theory
  • Regulation theory
  • Interpretive theories

He outlines his understanding of the key distinctions between government and governance:

Government Governance
Clearly defined participants linked to the state Mixes state and non-state participants, including NGOs
Linear model Network model
Top-down Multi-layer
Formal institutions and procedures Evolving and on-going processes
Simple and intuitive representation of citizens through election Power is dispersed and opaque
Domination through rules or force may be required to ensure universal acceptance of a decision Acceptance of and support for decisions by all players arises out of wide participation in earlier debate

Kumar equates government with Parliament i.e. the elected representatives whereas governance ‘is the act of governing or ruling’ p.701. He suggests that ‘Simply put, governance is what governments do.’ p.701

Using Stoker’s summary of governance literature he lists five dimensions of governance:

  • Complex set of institutions and actors both from and beyond government
  • Blurring of boundaries and responsibilities for tackling social and economic issues
  • Power dependence in relationships between institutions involved in collective action
  • Autonomous self-governing networks of actors
  • Broader view of how to get things done beyond traditional command and control view of govt, moving to steering and guiding.

With governance involving a network between the state, the market and civil society.

Kumar’s conclusion focuses on developing countries and the Millennium Development Goals noting that context is very important and these countries can not simply import governance approaches from developed countries.

  1. What did I learn?

Whilst governance is often defined as the engagement of civil society with the state it is possible for it also to be used to refer to engagement with citizens, which is more the focus of my research.

Kumar does nothing to reduce my sense of ambiguity around the term Government – does it mean Parliament, the Executive, the bureaucracy? Saying the ‘governance is what governments do’ is somewhat tautological.

The World Bank’s use of the term governance is different to that suggested by Cleveland and from its current in conjunction with terms like networked governance, collaborative governance.

I have two of the key references Kumar cites (Bevir and Stokes) and will go back to these to improve my understanding.

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