Table of Contents

Handbook on Theories of Governance

Handbook on Theories of Governance

Edited by Christopher Ansell and Jacob Torfing

In the past two decades, governance theories have arisen semi-independently across multiple disciplines. In law and regulation, planning, democratic theory, economics, public management, and international relations, among other disciplines, scholars have sought to describe new strategies of governing. As a result, the notion of governance is now one of the most frequently used social science concepts in the world. No single theory encompasses this diverse body of work, but rather multiple theories with different aims and perspectives. The Handbook on Theories of Governance collects these theories of governance together as an analytical resource for governing in an increasingly complex, fragmented and dynamic society.

Chapter 1: Collective action theory

Robert Holahan and Mark Lubell

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy, regulation and governance


Collective action dilemmas, wherein short-term rewards from individual action trump larger long-term rewards from cooperation, are ubiquitous features of social interaction. From classical philosophers like Aristotle to modern political economists, scholars have been interested in understanding the root causes of these dilemmas and finding solutions that encourage cooperative behavior. Frequently, solutions take the form of institutions that alter incentives and make cooperative outcomes individually beneficial. This chapter provides a review of collective action theory and highlights a number of empirical research traditions across disciplines. Theoretical topics explored include the philosophical origins of collective action theory, the development of modern political economy as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, and the application of game theory to complex social problems. Empirical topics discussed include the use of case studies developed through field research and the findings of increasingly complex economic experiments. Throughout, we utilize the tools of the new institutional economics to explore and explain past traditions of research and future opportunities.