Governance networks are one of the most debated and researched forms of interactive governance among governance theorists, and one of the key issues for debate has been the impact of governance networks on the form and functioning of democracy. There are three main positions on the issue: the worried, the hopeful and the enthusiastic. Each of them provides important insights that are valuable for the much needed future efforts to clarify how democratic governance can be understood and institutionalized at transnational, national and local levels of governance in an emerging reality.
Eva Sørensen and Jacob Torfing
In Chapter 21 Sørensen and Torfing deal with the concept of meta-governance. The concept of meta-governance provides, in their view, important insights into how public leaders and managers can govern the various arenas of collaborative governance. They critically reflect on the expanding research on meta-governance and argue that this literature tends to disregard the political aspects of meta-governance and neglects the specific role of politicians in meta-governing interactive governance arenas. In order to remedy this problem, Sørensen and Torfing set out some new ideas about how politicians can exercise vertical political leadership vis-à-vis horizontal networks by deploying some strictly political forms of meta-governance that enhance the democratic legitimacy of interactive governance. Their argument is based on a critical scrutiny of recent theories of meta-governance and political leadership.
Christopher Ansell, Eva Sørensen and Jacob Torfing
Collaborative governance arrangements are increasingly seen as generic governance instruments. While these instruments may fit the local or regional context like hand-in-glove, the underlying assumption that one size fits all is often disproved by varying socio-political circumstances. As a result, mandated collaborative governance may have little chance of driving effective governance. While the governance literature clearly recognizes that “context matters” it does not yet have a well-developed theoretical framework to analyze the social embedding of governance instruments in particular social and political milieus. We articulate a theoretical framework linking the conditions and dynamics of institutional governance arrangements to the conditions and dynamics of social and political contexts in which they are applied. While the theoretical framework that we develop is preliminary, it has the potential to be useful for both the “designers” and “implementers” of collaborative governance arrangements.