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 26: Institutional theory

B. Guy Peters

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


Institutions are central actors in governance. This is a common sense statement and requires elaboration, both in theoretical terms and in terms of comparative politics. This chapter discusses the relevance of five approaches to institutional theory for governance. Each of these approaches helps to illuminate the processes of governing, but each also has serious weaknesses as an approach. Further, although the emphasis in institutional theories is generally on the formal institutions of the public sector, informal structures are also relevant and supplement, or compete with formal institutions.

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