Handbook on Theories of Governance
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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.
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Chapter 11: Network

Patrick Kenis


This chapter demonstrates that there is a clear elective affinity between the concept of governance and the network concept as has been developed in the last 50 years. Given the different developments of these two fields in terms, we advise not conflating both concepts but rather analyzing how they can enforce each other. In the chapter, we start from the network perspective to demonstrate how that perspective can contribute to the development of governance theories. Whether governance is studied as a serendipitous structure or as a case of a goal-directed network, both situations offer a rich set of tools and concepts which are valuable for describing and analyzing concrete instances of governance. The outcomes of such analyses do potentially contribute to important elements within the theory of governance. It is demonstrated that the advantage of the network perspective is that it is initially insensitive to specific structures or the role of specific actors (like the role of government), but rather focuses on structures, processes and actors and their respective configurations.

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