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 31: Narrative and interpretive theory

Nick Turnbull

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


Interpretive research has revealed the place of meaning and culture in governance. For interpretivists, governance is an intersubjective world constituted by many different actors, meanings, and arguments. Governance is a practical and interpretive process in which individuals and organizations make sense of the world and respond. Policymakers interpret the world not through a primary focus on institutions but through contextualized meaning. The emphasis on subjectivity, situated knowledge, ideas and cultural specificity directs researchers to use textual analyses and close interpretations of governance practices. Understanding governance requires understanding what it means for the political actors themselves and how deliberation takes place in governance networks. The challenges for interpretivists are to engage with other perspectives on governance, particularly forms of institutionalism, and to develop a robust account of power.

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