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 32: Pragmatism

Christopher Ansell


The philosophy of Pragmatism encourages us to ask three fundamental questions about any governance situation: What is problematic? What values are at stake? And what is possible? Attentive to the problematic nature of governance, Pragmatists are vitally interested in the problem-solving strategies adopted by individuals and groups. This emphasis on problem-solving is sometimes read as a narrow instrumentalism, but a wider reading confirms Pragmatism’s deep humanistic concern about the source and fate of values. Public deliberation is regarded as fundamental for airing values, and deliberative democratic inquiry is viewed as an essential governance strategy for questioning, refining, and advancing them. Always alive to possibilities for creative action and learning, Pragmatism emphasizes the potential of experimentation to improve governance outcomes.

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