Table of Contents

Critical Reflections on Interactive Governance

Critical Reflections on Interactive Governance

Self-organization and Participation in Public Governance

Edited by Jurian Edelenbos and Ingmar van Meerkerk

In many countries, government and society have undergone a major shift in recent years, now tending toward ‘smaller government’ and ‘bigger society’. This development has lent increased meaning to the notion of interactive governance, a concept that this book takes not as a normative ideal but as an empirical phenomenon that needs constant critical scrutiny, reflection and embedding in modern societies.

Chapter 1: Introduction: three reflecting perspectives on interactive governance

Jurian Edelenbos and Ingmar van Meerkerk

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


Interactive governance refers to a situation of reflexive modernity where the expansion of participation and self-organization has become a prerequisite for welfare states. With interactive governance governments can obtain wholeness, coherence and effectiveness, taking into account that governments no longer have the opportunity to directly command and exercise control over their citizens (Bang, 2004). In recent strands of governance theory there is special focus on interactive governance (Kooiman, 2003; Edelenbos, 2005; Torfing et al., 2012) focusing on the interactions and initiatives of a plurality of public, societal and private actors in dealing with complex societal issues (for example: safety, liveability of city districts, urban development, public service delivery and so on). Although different constellations of public, private and societal actors can be the locus of interactive governance, in this book we specifically aim at interactive forms of governance between governments and citizens. In this respect, interactive governance deals with civic engagement, stakeholder participation, self-organization and civic initiatives. Some, like Putnam (2000), argue that civic engagement is declining; others, like Dalton (2008) and Bang (2009), claim that civic engagement is still present but becomes manifest in different forms. For an important part, citizens no longer identify themselves with political and governmental establishment belonging to models of representative democracy. Some of them take the initiative to (seek to) engage in public or political affairs outside traditional political institutions, in ways more directly connected to their personal life sphere (Bang, 2009; Stolle and Hooghe, 2005).