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 16: Business as Usual? Informal EU Governance and Alternative Methods of Policy-making

Otto Holman


Otto Holman INTRODUCTION The concept of governance (as noun) is better known and often defined, and too often just described, through the adjective attached. Good (while often ‘bad government’ is meant), corporate (the kind of self-regulation in business that may easily turn into a culture of self-enrichment), multilevel (probably one of the most overestimated adjectives in the history of European integration studies) and indeed informal are just a few examples. The resemblance with that other ‘hot noun’ comes to mind: a burgeoning literature on the European Union’s would-be external power is using adjectives such as soft, civilian or normative, without taking proper account of the rather contested meaning of power itself. But while the notion of soft power, for instance, is criticized for being a contradictio in adjecto, informal governance can be seen as a pleonasm. As Christiansen et al. argue, informal governance is not a new phenomenon in (European or EU) politics (Christiansen et al. 2003, p. 1). Indeed, one can argue that the elite-driven process of European integration has always been informal, to a large – and decisive – extent that is. This is particularly true in its agenda-setting and policy-making dimensions. However, the study of governance is ‘a veritable growth industry’ only just recently, that is from the mid-1990s onwards (Kohler-Koch and Rittberger 2006, p. 27). One reason for this time lag has something to do with the noun rather than the adjective: it is governance that makes a difference, not informality. In search of a working definition of...

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