Some Critical Notes on "Governance"

William Walters


We begin with William Walters' interrogation of the concept of governance. Walters notes that this concept has replaced that of "government" in many political arenas: we speak of "global governance" when discussing international organizations and relations; "multilevel governance" regarding the EU, and "urban governance" to describe political relations at the local level. The term suggests that, rather than being centralized and hierarchical, systems of political rule now operate in a more fluid and cooperative fashion involving multiple private as well as public actors. The concept is indicative of a shift in political studies away from institutions to processes of rule. The way in which the concept is applied suggests two differing tendencies in the understanding of politics: one, politics as technocratic management and, two, politics as the search for consensus and problem solving. Williams is concerned with the anti-political nature of these tendencies and opens a space of reflection on the concept.

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Studies in Political Economy:
Online ISSN 1918-7033
Print ISSN 0707-8552