Multi-Level Governance: The Missing Linkages: Volume 4

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Table of contents

(23 chapters)
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Preface

Pages xv-xviii
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Purpose

The explanatory power of Multi-Level Governance (MLG) has been and is being questioned. Two main criticisms have been raised: first, that MLG is ultimately descriptive, not explanatory; second, that MLG is a case of concept stretching, that it is ultimately an umbrella notion rather than a theory. This chapter outlines what ripostes may be provided to such critiques and argues that the progress of the study of MLG and its usage in political science and public policy and management may lie to an important extent in fostering the dialogue with other streams of research (thus filling the gap of some ‘missing linkages’ in the extant MLG literature), like network governance; policy learning; the analysis of policy tools and the tools of government in complex systems; models in strategic management like stakeholder analysis and others.

Methodology/approach

This volume is a collective contribution by authors from different disciplinary backgrounds who all address, from different angles and by using a variety of research methods, the key question of how to bring into the MLG research agenda a range of disciplines and applied fields of inquiry that have so far only limitedly been used in the MLG stream of research and literature more systematically.

Findings

It arises from the volume that theoretical frames like network governance; policy learning; policy tools analysis; stakeholder analysis and others have important potential to further the MLG research agenda. A number of contributions address the transformation of MLG in the European Union (EU), the polity where MLG arrangements where first detected and labelled as such (Marks, 1993). Others apply MLG frames to other institutional settings, including non-democratic regimes.

Research implications

This volume is a collective attempt to suggest ‘cross-fertilisations’ from other disciplines or applied fields that may lead to unleash more of the potential and promises of the MLG agenda. It is hoped that this work lays some of the foundations for building bridges between the MLG literature and disciplines and theoretical frames that may be effectively brought into the MLG research agenda.

Practical/social implications

MLG has long gone beyond the academic debate, to become an analytical lens employed by EU and other institutions across the globe. MLG informs the practice of policy-making. By addressing some key gaps in the extant literature and furnishing perspectives to link MLG to disciplines that may provide theories and models to further its analytical potential, this volume aims at contributing to improving the practice of MLG.

Originality/value

The volume is – to our knowledge – the first systematic attempt to bring into the MLG literature a whole range of theories and models that may provide ways forward to the understanding and usage of MLG.

Purpose

This contribution argues that there is a fundamental problem for the multi-level governance (MLG) approach in that what the approach is trying to explain has never been fully agreed by the vast group of scholarship that references it. The chapter then examines and proposes that ideas and concepts from network governance, principal–agent (PA) and learning can provide the necessary micro foundations for the MLG approach.

Methodology/approach

The chapter examines and critiques the original MLG formulations and the later efforts at elaboration. It then reviews the literature and concepts for three public policy approaches that have been associated with European governance to see how core explanations can be elaborated upon in a multi-level context: network governance, principal–agent (PA) and learning.

Findings

This contribution suggests that co-ordination, and the resources that help maintain this co-ordination, is the key dependent variable that underpins the MLG approach. With multiple principals and multiple agents, operating at a number of levels of analysis, direct authority and control is harder to evoke. The key explanatory variable underpinning this MLG co-ordination is learning by the participants.

Research implications

Researchers need to concentrate both their theoretical and empirical efforts in understanding the conditions that support multi-level governance and that sustain its effort.

Practical implications

The contribution outlines some of the key practical questions that policy-makers must face. Can they manage resources and induce learning from all the relevant public and private stakeholders to engage in the MLG effort?

Social implications

Not only does an effective MLG process involve engaging a wide range of societal stakeholders, these stakeholders have to be persuaded to invest effort in learning about the nature of the governance system, the challenges of the policy problem and the implications of the efforts to resolve these problems.

Originality/value

This chapter isolates the fundamental lacuna at the heart of the MLG project and offers academics and practitioners a conceptual lens for building a clearer analytical structure for studying MLG.

Purpose

The aim of the chapter is to examine whether the challenges to administering the EU outlined by Les Metcalfe in his famous article, ‘After 1992, can the Commission manage Europe?’ have now been met. Metcalfe not only identified a ‘management deficit’ in the implementation of the single market programme arising from an oversight among policy makers, but highlighted a neglect of the administrative dimension of European integration among scholars.

Methodology/approach

The chapter draws on primary and secondary literature to track developments in respect of the three elements identified by Metcalfe: the small size of the European Commission, its poor internal coordination and weak leadership; the responsiveness of administrative bodies in the member states to the need for inter-organizational coordination; and the network-building and management capacity of the Commission.

Findings

Despite changes, such as further enlargement, agencification at national and EU levels, and the expansion of EU competencies that have exacerbated the management challenge confronting the EU, there have been significant developments that have closed the deficit. First, the Commission has become far better integrated, coordination upgraded, and leadership strengthened. Second, through networking, cooptation and other strategies the Commission has sought to assure the effective implementation and enforcement of the single market rules. Third, member state governments, ministries and agencies have sought to cultivate networked relations that have increased the manageability of EU administration.

Research implications

To the knowledge of this author, this is the first attempt to revisit Metcalfe’s diagnosis and to review the extent to which the management deficit he identified has been addressed subsequently.

Practical implications

The chapter has implications for how inter-organizational coordination within the EU administrative system could be improved.

Social implications

The chapter bears on the administrative capacity of the EU to deliver the policies decided by EU policy makers.

Originality/value

As well as offering an assessment of the extent to which progress has been made in addressing the management deficit identified by Les Metcalfe in his classic article, this chapter conceptualizes the EU administration as an entity that encompasses both EU institutions and administrative bodies in the member states. It advances the concept of the EU as a multi-level administration.

Purpose

This chapter provides a framework for organisational analysis of the newly created position of ‘independent’ Commissioner, especially whether it is sufficiently backed by administrative capacities.

Methodology/approach

In the many variables that determine organisational behaviour (Mintzberg, 1989), this approach follows Olsen (2005) in its analysis through communication structures and strategic directions, and adds procedures (networks) and personnel to this. The chapter is primarily based on interview data in addition to literature and document analysis.

Findings

This chapter acknowledges the ‘stickiness’ of institutions and the difficulties in reorganising (formal) institutions. The conclusion shows that there are multiple problems in the current process of institutionalisation of the independent Commissioner. Generalising the findings to the use of an administrative approach, the frugal framework used here indicates that ‘independence’ cannot simply be proclaimed but also demands attentions for organisation design. Organisational analysis helps to understand the organisation and the organisational weaknesses behind the policy objective.

Research implications

As is often the case with MLG it gives a perspective on governance, but must be complemented with an approach for analysis, in this case organisational design. In the chapter the approach is limited to organisational values, personnel and communication lines. It provides a basic framework to evaluate one of the key elements of European integration – independence. However, additional work is needed to further develop this framework as well as other components of the organisational behaviour of the Commission.

Practical implications

This chapter comes up with suggestions for organisational redesign of the Commission in order to restore trust in its tasks and responsibilities. With the instalment of the new Juncker Commission these findings might provide useful insights for the ongoing process of reorganisation of the Commission.

Social implications

The new economic legislation and the role of the independent Commissioner have a direct impact on member state budgets (cuts), with a far reaching societal impact. Therefore, the level of (public) trust is critical in the acceptance of the process. Trust is established inter alia by the organisational implementation of principles of good administrative behaviour such as transparency, capability, independence, etc.

Originality/value

The chapter uses the MLG perspective in order to get a comprehensive picture of the organisational implications to effectively embed the ‘independent’ Commissioner in the organisation. The added value is based on the extensive amount of interviews over a longer period of time (2011–2014) during the operationalisation of the European semester.

Purpose

The chapter furnishes empirical evidence about the extent and profiles of autonomy of EU agencies, the modalities whereby they are steered and controlled, and the interactions they have in EU policy networks. It thus provides the bases for a more complete picture of the EU multi-level administration.

Methodology/approach

The research is a survey-based design. A questionnaire was administered between July 2009 and April 2010 to 30 EU agencies included in the study population. The questionnaire was sent to the executive director of all the agencies included in the study. Questions were closed-ended, either in the form of multiple choices – with one answer or with check-all-that-apply and an option for ‘other’ to be filled – or in scale format. The resulting data set included ratio, interval, ordinal, and nominal scales. The reference model employed for the investigation relies on the analytical model developed within the framework of the research project COST Action IS0651 CRIPO (Comparative Research into Current Trends in Public Sector Organization – see also ‘Acknowledgements’) for the study of public agencies in Europe (Verhoest, Van Thiel, Bouckaert, & Lægreid, 2012).

Findings

EU agencies display a rather low level of managerial, especially financial, autonomy; conversely, they enjoy relatively high policy autonomy. As to the way in which multiple ‘parent’ administration steer EU agencies, it emerges a composite picture, in which the crossroads of steering and control by the parent administrations and accountability by the agency lies in the executive director. In terms of interactions within policy networks, EU agencies interact in a significant way with the European Commission, with national-level agencies in the pertinent policy field, and with specific technical bodies where they are part of the configuration of the policy sector, whilst interactions with national ministries as well as with other EU agencies are rare. No single model can capture in full the overall features of EU agencies, although the ‘community level institution’ model seems to capture a number of the profiles of these agencies.

Research implications

Both the literature on EU multi-level administration and research agendas in public management can benefit from inclusion of – and in-depth empirical knowledge about – EU agencies. The chapter provides important empirical evidence to these purposes.

Practical/social implications

EU agencies are actors in European public policy-making, albeit to a varied extent depending on the sector. The extent of autonomy and the way in which they are held to account are crucial aspects for an enhanced understanding of their influence on European public policy-making, as is their location in European policy networks.

Originality/value

Research presented in this chapter is the first systematic empirical investigation of EU agencies encompassing networking, steering and control and autonomy of EU agencies, based on primary data.

Purpose

Many European-level networks and regulatory constellations in different sectors (e.g., energy, telecommunications) without clear anchorage into the European Union (EU) institutional landscape have been subject to increasing efforts by the EU institutions to tie them closer to the EU. They are serving increasingly as platforms for preparing EU policy or for implementing EU decisions, which may result in closer institutional bonds with the EU. This chapter aims at examining the differences and similarities between the process towards more EU-integration in two different domains (i.e., telecommunications and patents) and regulatory constellations (i.e., supranational and intergovernmental).

Methodology/approach

The chapter analyzes the evolution in the European telecommunication sector and the European Patent System and juxtaposes this analysis with the literature on institutionalization, Europeanization of regulatory network-organizations, and multilevel governance (MLG). It focuses on the role of the European Commission and the interaction with the national regulatory agencies (NRAs) and networks within the institutional framework.

Findings

Irrespective of the particular regime (intergovernmental/supranational) in a certain domain or sector, a common trend of closer coordination and integration prompted by the Commission is taking place, which triggers a certain resistance by the national bodies regulating that domain. As long as a specific competence is considered instrumental in the creation of the single market, the Commission has strong incentives to strengthen its influence in this field, even if those competences have been regulated through an independent intergovernmental regime.

Research implications

The dynamic described in this chapter allows us to reflect upon the MLG conception as developed by Marks and Hooghe (2004), which distinguish between two types of MLG. Type I MLG refers to different levels of governments, more specifically to the spread of power along different governmental levels and the interactions between them. Type II MLG refers to jurisdictions that are both task-specific and based on membership that can intersect with each other. They respond to particular problems in specific policy fields (Marks & Hooghe, 2004). Our analysis shows that the increase in coordination and integration are the outcome of both MLG Type II processes (coordination between two issue-specific bodies) and of MLG Type I processes (tensions between two governmental levels). Furthermore, the negotiation dynamics regarding this increased coordination and integration reveal that the tensions typical of MLG Type I took place as a consequence of the increased coordination between Type II bodies. Put differently, multi-level coordination and integration mechanisms in the EU can be seen as both Type I and Type II processes. They combine features of both categories and reveal that their Type I and Type II features are interdependent.

Practical implications

The analysis in this chapter shows a need for further strengthening the MLG Type I and II conceptual framework by balancing the analytical distinction between the two types with developments about how Type I and Type II are often entangled and intertwined with each other rather than separated realities.

Social implications

The chapter describes and compares the dynamics in the European telecommunications sector and the European patent system with interesting observations for NRAs and the European Commission with respect to coordination and integration.

Originality/value

The original nature of the current chapter relates to the two selected areas and the addition to the literature on MLG.

First, with respect to the areas investigated the dynamics of the European telecommunications sector have been analyzed also by other authors, but the European patent system is an area which is relatively unexplored in terms of governance research. The combination of the two sectors with a detailed analysis of similarities and differences is highly original and generates interesting lessons with respect to coordination and integration in supranational and intergovernmental regimes.

Second, Marks and Hooghe (2004) distinguish between the two types of MLG as if they are two different constructs that are not related to each other. Our cases and argument cover both types of MLG and show the interconnection between the dynamics taking place in the two types of MLG.

Purpose

This chapter examines the relations between local civil society organizations and the European Union as a way to assess the functioning of multi-level governance in the field of employment policy.

Methodology/approach

The chapter draws on primary organizational survey data collected in the EU FP7 funded project entitled ‘Youth, Unemployment and Exclusion in Europe’ (Younex, grant agreement n.216111) and for the approach it places itself in the tradition of critical civil society–EU relations research.

Findings

For more than two decades, civil society has occupied a prominent position in the rhetoric of European Union multi-level governance. The EU rhetoric conceives of the inclusion of civil society in policy making as a necessary step towards linking the various levels of government (from local to European) as well as the different societal and institutional actors implied by a multilevel governance approach. Moreover, the rhetoric of civil society also serves the goal of tackling the multi-faceted issues of a democratic ‘deficitaire’ EU. This chapter, however, offers a critical appraisal of such a rhetoric by confirming what other studies had unveiled: access to European institutions requires substantial human (‘capital in knowledge’) and economic resources and as such the link existing between the European Union and local civil society organizations is a very thin one, one which is limited to a very few, rich in resources, organizations. The rhetoric of civil society as the connector of levels and types of actors in the multi-level governance approach promoted by the EU should thus be mitigated. The European policy process should be conceived of more pragmatically as an arena where European institutions and member states still act as gate keepers that select and decide which societal interest and voice should have a place within the European agenda. What consequences this has for the overall democratic quality of the European policy process is an issue which should concern us all.

Research implications

The chapter allows scrutinizing horizontal and vertical dimensions of multi-level governance while expanding knowledge on civil society at both local and European level. Although multi-level governance has become a popular concept it still lacks a consistent empirical assessment, which is something the data discussed here do. Thus, the chapter has implications for research on civil society and citizens’ engagement in public affairs but it is also relevant for scholars working on EU policy-making issues.

Practical implications

Civil society organizations could contribute improving the quality of policies at European level as well as strengthening EU legitimacy to rule. The findings contribute explaining which factors limit civil society access to EU institutions and how these could be overcome.

Societal implications

The chapter corroborates critical views of the EU–civil society relations, the findings suggest that the EU should work with further commitment to offer local civil society organizations and citizens groups real opportunities for their voices and expertise to be heard and considered.

Originality/value

The chapter adopts a critical view of EU–civil society relations challenging the EU multi-level governance rhetoric and discusses the features obstructing civil society actors’ engagement with policy making at the EU level.

Purpose

This chapter is aimed at contributing to the question of how institutional reforms affect multi-level governance (MLG) capacities and thus the performance of public task fulfillment with a particular focus on the local level of government in England, France, and Germany.

Methodology/approach

Drawing on concepts of institutional evaluation, we analytically distinguish six dimensions of impact assessment: vertical coordination; horizontal coordination; efficiency/savings; effectiveness/quality; political accountability/democratic control; equity of service standards. Methodologically, we rely on document analysis and expert judgments that could be gleaned from case studies in the three countries and a comprehensive evaluation of the available secondary data in the respective national and local contexts.

Findings

Institutional reforms in the intergovernmental setting have exerted a significant influence on task fulfillment and the performance of service delivery. Irrespective of whether MLG practice corresponds to type I or type II, task devolution (decentralization/de-concentration) furthers the interlocal variation and makes the equity of service delivery shrink. There is a general tendency of improved horizontal/MLG type I coordination capacities, especially after political decentralization, less in the case of administrative decentralization. However, decentralization often entails considerable additional costs which sometimes overload local governments.

Research implications

The distinction between multi-purpose territorial organization/MLG I and single-purpose functional organization/MLG II provides a suitable analytical frame for institutional evaluation and impact assessment of reforms in the intergovernmental setting. Furthermore, comparative research into the relationship between MLG and institutional reforms is needed to reveal the explanatory power of intervening factors, such as the local budgetary and staff situation, local policy preferences, and political interests in conjunction with the salience of the transferred tasks.

Practical implications

The findings provide evidence on the causal relationship between specific types of (vertical) institutional reforms, performance, and task-related characteristics. Policy-makers and government actors may use this information when drafting institutional reform programs and determining the allocation of public tasks in the intergovernmental setting.

Social implications

In general, the euphoric expectations placed upon decentralization strategies in modern societies cannot straightforwardly be justified. Our findings show that any type of task transfer to lower levels of government exacerbates existing disparities or creates new ones. However, the integration of tasks within multi-functional, politically accountable local governments may help to improve MLG type I coordination in favor of local communities and territorially based societal actors, while the opposite may be said with regard to de-concentration and the strengthening of MLG type II coordination.

Originality/value

The chapter addresses a missing linkage in the existing MLG literature which has hitherto predominantly been focused on the political decision-making and on the implementation of reforms in the intergovernmental settings of European countries, whereas the impact of such reforms and of their consequences for MLG has remained largely ignored.

Purpose

This chapter examines whether Type 1 and Type 2 models of Multi-Level Governance (MLG) are suitable frameworks for analysing the operation of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) as significant new partnerships at the sub-national level of governance in England. In doing so it bridges some gaps in knowledge, largely absent from MLG literature, by demonstrating how actors in economic development attempt to solve governance problems through co-operation rather than central steering and control.

Methodology/approach

The approach follows Stubbs (2005) who called for more political anthropological or ethnographic analyses, and the chapter draws on primary interview data and secondary documentary evidence from two LEPs in the north east of England.

Findings

Some advocates of MLG believe that governance should serve citizen needs but it is clear from the contents of this chapter that MLG has a number of weaknesses in this respect, as well as neglecting power relationships and misinterpretations of the concept of territory. The conclusion shows that LEPs as multi-agency partnerships need to be accountable and it is essential to adopt models that facilitate a clearer understanding of new spaces of interactions and multiple accountabilities. Using a stakeholder analysis fills some gaps in understanding of how partnerships work and who they are accountable to, as well as assessing how public services delivery models operate within a multi-level governance setting. All 39 LEPs have varying levels of trust between partners, as well as responding to multiple accountabilities. Neither Type I nor Type II MLG is sufficient on its own as an explanatory framework for analysing LEPs, but each does offer a useful entrée into this important field of enquiry.

Research implications

The MLG concept is a helpful starting point, but its utility is governed by how it is augmented with other, more appropriate models of analysis. LEPs are a challenge to the dynamics of public accountability as they involve private actors at the heart of public service delivery; they are also interesting examples of persistent contestation between actors with different mind sets on outcomes and on legitimacy, accountability and representativeness. Stakeholder analysis allows a deeper appreciation of the interactions in space and multiple accountabilities of actors in LEPs.

Practical implications

LEPs in England are the preferred instrument for driving economic growth in regions and sub-regions. The findings help to explain more fully some of the intricate power and trust relationships in these partnerships. The chapter also examines multiple accountabilities and how actors connect within territories.

Social implications

Critically the findings show an absence of real citizen engagement or expression of public opinions and feedback loops to citizens/publics/individuals/other organisations within such diffuse partnership arrangements. In an era of Localism it is essential for partnerships to be accountable to a wider group of societal stakeholders

Originality/value

The chapter takes a novel approach to analysing LEPs and builds on some existing work on MLG to obtain a deeper analysis of some of the complex inter-relationships and connections between actors on LEPs.

Purpose

This chapter argues that the concept of metagovernance offers an alternative to multi-level governance (MLG) for understanding how policy is delivered through complex networks. Whereas MLG portrays the state as a diminished entity, metagovernance argues for a strong, capable state that can govern through the deployment of policy tools. The chapter identifies and evaluates how policy tools are selected to realise the strategic objectives of government.

Methodology/approach

A critical case methodology is employed. Nuclear power is held to be a most difficult test for the British government’s ability to metagovern. The empirical data was collected from in-depth qualitative interviews conducted between August 2008 and July 2013.

Findings

The chapter shows that the British government’s metagovernance efforts are informed by the risks that would-be developer face. The British government is shown to have some ability to practice metagovernance but the complexities of nuclear power and the existence of a MLG structure create risks that government cannot overcome. It is also observed that in nuclear power programmes, the risks of construction cost overruns and electricity price fluctuations have the greatest impact on the calculations of would-be developers.

Research implications

The findings offer insight into the limits of government capacity in the face of networks and claims of continued state power. The chapter links together the literature on risk and the emergent literature on metagovernance. It is shown that institutional risks in the form of political opportunism are ever present and cannot be easily overcome.

Practical implications

Government are often called upon oversee difficult projects that are delivered by commercial actors. The findings indicate how governments might approach the task and point to a need for greater sensitivity to the nature of the project itself.

Social implications

The empirical results show that to moderate risk, government has tended to adopt very technocratic policies that limit wider democratic consultation in favour of working directly with commercial actors.

Originality/value

The chapter presents a detailed analysis of government decision-making in a highly controversial area of public policy – nuclear power.

Purpose

Existing work on multi-level governance (MLG) has concentrated on decentring of the state (e.g., Rhodes, R. A. W. (1994). The hollowing out of the state: The changing nature of the public service in Britain. Political Quarterly, 65(2), 138–141; Rhodes, R. A. W. (1997). Understanding governance: Policy networks, governance, reflexivity and accountability. London: Open University Press; Rhodes, R. A. W. (2008). Understanding governance: Ten years on. Organisation Studies, 28(8), 1243–1264); growth of non-state actors in governing (e.g., Crouch, 2004; Jessop, B. (2004). Multi level governance and multi-level metagovernance-changes in the European Union as integral moments in the transformation and re-orientation of contemporary statehood. In I. Bache & M. Flinders (Eds.), Multi level governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press); classifying different types of governance (e.g., type 1 and type 2 MLG – see Hooghe & Marks, 2003; Ongaro, E., Massey, A., Holzer, M., & Wayenberg, E. (Eds.). (2010). Governance and intergovernmental relations in the European Union and the United States: Theoretical perspectives. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar). The purpose of the chapter is to complement these approaches by focusing on politics and political strategies in multi-level systems.

Methodology/approach

The chapter draws on an extensive literature in governance and political accountability and on political dynamics, management and strategies within multi-level state systems. Although in international context, particular accentuation is placed on the UK case.

Findings

There are three broad findings. First, while the growth of MLG and in particular supra state activities and institutions have undermined conventional conceptions of political accountability, more nuanced interpretations are provided; as are cases of successful popular challenge to a seemingly inevitable application of neo-liberal new public management driven approaches to public service provision, as witnessed in examples of public service de-privatisation and re-municipalisation. Second, as seen in the United Kingdom, political strategies in a multi-state system are presented in terms of zero sum or alternatively win-win scenarios. In Scotland, for example, though there have been difficulties for state wide parties in managing multi-level politics in the devolved arena, yet in that arena win-win strategies have been played out; and in Northern Ireland with a contextual backdrop of conflict, there is also evidence of win-win political actions. Third, some general findings are presented which outline a range of centrifugal and centripetal forces found in some European countries and how these affect the choice of political strategy.

Purpose

The chapter attempts to evaluate the utility of applying multi-level governance outside of the EU, and also outside of the group of democratic states, to states that have defied the third wave of democratization and that are characterized by a so-called new authoritarianism. The case is the People’s Republic of China, and the focus falls on policy-making and implementation in the field of hydropower with special attention to the issue area of environmental protection.

Methodology/approach

The chapter draws on the notion of scales and indigenous Chinese governance concepts and brings these into a conversation with the concept of multi-level governance. Case studies on hydropower decision-making in China contribute empirical data in order to investigate the utility of multi-level governance in the Chinese governance context.

Findings

The chapter argues that if multi-level governance is to have utility in other cultural contexts it needs to move away from a consideration of pre-given scales as locus of authority and consider indigenous governance concepts and notions of scale, and it crucially needs to map power relationships in the making and implementation of policies in order to reach analytical depth.

Research implications

The case of China shows that authoritarian regimes can be analysed in terms of multiple levels as authoritarianism no longer automatically implies strict top-down entities. Instead, autocracies can be highly fragmented and subject to complex decision-making processes that can arise during processes of administrative reform. This can lead to vibrant and reflexive systems of governance that exhibit adaptive skills necessary to ensure regime survival amidst a continuously diversifying society and changing external circumstances. As a consequence, a research programme looking at the new authoritarianism from a multi-level governance perspective has the capacity to uncover and describe new forms of governance, by bringing the concept into a conversation with indigenous governance concepts.

Practical implications

In China, informal networks between the energy bureaucracy and hydropower developers determine the hydropower decision-making process. This is particularly detrimental at a time when the Chinese government emphasizes the importance of the rule of law and social stability. Informal networks in which key government agencies are involved actively thwart the attempt of creating reliable institutions and more transparent and accountable processes of decision-making within the authoritarian governance framework.

Social implications

The findings show the dominance of informal networks versus the formal decision-making process. This sidelines the environmental bureaucracy and fails to fully realize the importance of public input into the decision-making process as one potential element of institutionalized conflict resolution.

Originality/value

The chapter builds on existing multi-level governance approaches and fuses them with notions of scales and indigenous Chinese governance concepts in order to enable the applicability of the concept of multi-level governance outside of its area of origin. This advances the explanatory depth and theoretical reach of multi-level governance.

Purpose

This chapter attempts to answer some of the questions raised in this volume, in particular: (1) provide a concise but precise definition of multi-level governance; (2) prove that it is a theoretical and not just a descriptive concept and (3) dispel some of the misconceptions associated with it, for example, that (a) multi-level governance underplays and conceals the exercise of power or (b) it is incompatible with democracy.

Methodology/approach

The chapter is correspondingly organized in four sections, preceded and followed by short introductory and concluding sections. The four sections address, respectively: (1) the definition of multi-level governance (MLG) (‘Solving the dependent variable problem’); (2) the causes that explain the emergence and diffusion of MLG arrangements (‘The contextual causes of MLG’); (3) the changes that it triggers in the manner in which power is deployed (‘The institutional consequences of MLG’); (4) the democratic implications of the diffusion of MLG arrangements (‘Are MLG arrangements democratic?’).

The methodology employed is mainly that of ‘conceptual analysis’ (Sartori, 1984), which implies that the connotational features (those features which minimally allow us to identify cases of MLG) of the concept are identified so that we can delimit the denotational extension of the concept (the universe of phenomena which can be identified as cases of MLG). This chapter contains a highly abridged version of this conceptual analysis, which is fully developed in Piattoni (2010a).

Findings

MLG denotes a growing class of policymaking arrangements characterized by the simultaneous activation of governmental and non-governmental actors at various jurisdictional levels. These arrangements have identifiable contextual causes, even if the precise contours of MLG arrangements depend on the capacity of the actors to mobilize arguments and people on behalf of their specific ideas, values and interest. The precise shape that these arrangements will take, therefore, depends on the mobilization capacity of the actors (and on the capacity of other actors to contain or delimit such mobilization). The causes of mobilization are mainly contextual, having to do with the increased complexity and overload of state activities and with the growing request for direct involvement on the part of civil society organizations. Both these trends induce states to seek joint solutions to common problems, hence MLG dynamics occur on three axes: a centre-periphery axis, a state-society axis, and a national-international axis which challenge, respectively, the centrality, the distinctiveness and the sovereignty of the state.

Research/practical implications

This conceptualization of MLG allows us to analyse the extent to which different policymaking arrangements respond to MLG logics and to understand which actors and which levels are mostly responsible for the particular configuration that obtains. This conceptualization of MLG, although here deployed in a purely discursive manner, could enable us to ‘measure’ the degree of institutional and political empowerment of subjects, other than central state actors, in various policy realms.

Social implications

The most important social implication is the impact that MLG arrangements have on how democratic decision-making occurs, on what we mean by democracy, and on the societal perception of how contemporary democracies work. The chapter argues that trying to apply to MLG arrangements democratic criteria and standards that were developed for the unitary, distinctive and sovereign state is misleading and that we must rather develop an updated notion of democracy appropriate for the interconnected, multi-level context in which we live. The concept of ‘transnational democracy’ is cursorily offered as a promising direction for further reflection.

Originality/value

The chapter is wholly based on the long-term work and reflection of the author on MLG and on the scholarly contributions of the other authors of the volume.

Cover of Multi-Level Governance: The Missing Linkages
DOI
10.1108/S2045-794420154
Publication date
2015-07-06
Book series
Critical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-874-8
eISBN
978-1-78441-873-1
Book series ISSN
2045-7944