OK, since the essay was due last FR. it doesn't matter if I post it now anyway.
I would be very thankful, if one could have a look at my essay!
I just want to learn and improve my writing skills.
Essay Question: Is governance a useful concept for broadening our understanding of the roles and tasks of governments?
“The past century has seen some radical changes in the dominant beliefs about what the state can and should do – what we might call paradigm shifts.” (HUDSON AND LOWE, 1998: 35)
A much looser and more fragmented system of governing and an increasing complexity of social dependencies and interactions on all levels (from local to supranational) led to changing roles and tasks of governments. Different analytical concepts such as the “concept of policymaking as social learning” seek to explain changes in policy and the state’s role in these processes. This essay seeks to discuss if governance is a useful concept for broadening our understanding of the roles and tasks of government. Therefore it is important to clarify “government” and “governance”. Government is the state of being governed. Governance is an analytical perspective, which seeks to describe or evaluate the reality of structures and modes collective actions in state, economy or society (BENZ, 2004:27). Rhodes says: “Governance signifies a change in the meaning of government, referring to new process of governing; or a changed condition of order and rule; or the new method by which society is governed” (NEWMAN, 2001:11).
There are two essential arguments concerning governance. One argument states that governance helps to clarify the roles and tasks of governments. That’s because governance embeds government in a very broad framework of complex structures of collective governing actions. And the other argument states that the governance perspective is not beneficial to analyse the roles and tasks of governments. This is because it is rather imprecise when it comes to the roles and tasks of governments in many terms. I will critically examine each argument, provide three pivotal factors, and then I will provide my understanding with supporting rationale.
The first argument that governance is helpful analysing government’s roles and tasks rests upon three critical factors. First, governance captures different levels of analysis. Second, it embraces public and private actors. Finally, governance focuses on the whole policy process (from policy-making to policy-implementation) (DELAY 2003:122). I think the broad context in which the concept embeds governments allows for some important aspects such as governing takes place in much wider interrelations. For instance, governments are affected by supranational decisions. Moreover governing is a result of interaction between public and non-public actors such as the economy. Finally, the policy process involves governments in various ways. Therefore it illuminates different roles and tasks of governments depending on the stages in the policy process.
The second argument that governance is not a useful concept for broadening our understanding of the roles and tasks of governments bases upon these three factors. First, the concept provides different propositions regarding the affects of developments like devolution on the roles and tasks of governments (NEWMAN, 2001:18f). Second, governance over-simplifies the public policy process and fails to explain why changes in the policy process occur (DELAY, 2001:124/NEWMAN, 2001:17). Finally governance fails to explain certain issues of power (MAYNTZ, 2004:74f/NEWMANN, 2001:20f). The first point makes the concept partly useless to answer clearly the question. Moreover the fact that governance fails to explain why changes occur doesn’t help to explain what kind of role governments play in changing processes. Finally, the concept of governance blinds one of the most important aspect of governing out: power and preservation of power. Governance discusses the exercise of power. Power remains to be an instrument not an end in itself. The concept implies that all actions of governing motivated to seek common welfare. But this is a very selective view of political reality (MAYNTZ, 2004:74f).
By reviewing both sides of the argument, I find that governance cannot entirely define the roles and tasks of governments because of factors identified above. But is the concept consequently useless? I think not. Governance helps broaden our understanding of the roles and tasks of governments even if its explanations are not entirely satisfying. That is because the concept provides a multi-dimensional framework including all levels and actors of governing to discover roles and tasks of governments. Governance “(…) shifts attentions beyond the state itself while setting out new conceptions of the tasks and roles of governing” (NEWMAN, 2001:17). Previous analysis which are based on state power and just focus on the core executive as the centre of governing provide a very selective perspective. A multi-dimensional framework is premise for understanding political entities nowadays. That is because we are facing a much looser and more fragmented system of governing and an increasing complexity of social dependencies and interactions on all levels. In fact the roles of governments vary depending on with whom they interact. For instance, on an international level governments are members of supranational organisations. Corresponding to different roles the tasks of governments are newly arranged as well. On a national level the concept illuminates changing demands in governing. Governments increasingly act in the roles as facilitators. Furthermore the concept highlights a separation between policy-making and policy-implementation. While governments take a major part in the policy-making process their active role regarding the implementation-process has become of little importance. Implementation of policy-processes has increasingly been contracted out to quasi-governmental agencies, so that governments are rather in a steering position than exercising direct control.
Governance is a very ambitious concept and has a great potential to explain roles and tasks of governments. But applying the governance concept one should be aware of the fact that the concept can’t define all roles and tasks of governments entirely satisfying. It fails to explain the affects of power and how preservation of power affects the roles and tasks of governments and the concept provides different propositions as to how the roles and tasks of governments have changed under specific developments such as globalisation. Therefore governance should rather be applied as a perspective. It is advising to make use of other theories and empirical methods in order to receive more precise answers and not just a better understanding of the roles and tasks of governments.