International Handbook on Informal Governance
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International Handbook on Informal Governance

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Christine Neuhold

Acknowledging that governance relies not only on formal rules and institutions but to a significant degree also on informal practices and arrangements, this unique Handbook examines and analyses a wide variety of theoretical, conceptual and normative perspectives on informal governance.
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Chapter 3: Informal Governance and Democratic Theory

Hans-Joachim Lauth


Hans-Joachim Lauth INTRODUCTION Democracy implies democratic governance. Following the main stream of democratic theory, democratic rule rests upon formal institutions which allow a transparent political process. Nevertheless, informality is a genuine factor in each political system. Does this mean that we have no real democracy in our world, or do forms of informal governance exist that are compatible with democracy? The answer to this question demands a precise understanding of the most important concepts (democracy, governance and informality). We shall then identify several forms of informality and discuss their relationship with democracy. DEMOCRACY, GOVERNANCE AND INFORMALITY Democracy It is difficult to find a definition of democracy which is acceptable to all. Within the various discussions of democratic theory, a confusing variety of proposals exist. (Dahl 1989; Dryzeti 2002; Shapiro 2005). It is possible, however, to order the ideas along a fundamental divide, which is given by a material versus a procedural approach to democracy. While in the material or substantial version the output of a political system is decisive, in the procedural version only procedures count (elections, or participation in the political process). After the breakdown of the (real) socialist regimes, the process of the worldwide wave of democratization is understood mainly in procedural terms. Institutions which guarantee the democratic process – especially elections – are considered as the nucleus of democracy. This thinking corresponds to the arguments and traditions of liberal democracy, which itself offers various forms of democracy. In spite of this variety, liberal thinking is based upon common beliefs...

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