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Government, Governance and ‘Hollowing-out’

The concepts of governance and government are very pertinent to the study of a multi-level Europe.

Conceptually, we can see government as referring (broadly speaking) to the institutions of a state, controlled directly by the central state authority (in the UK context, think of the offices of state, NHS, police, local government etc).

The concept of governance, however, is defined by Boyer as “the action of government plus its interaction with non-governmental partners in the process of governing” (Boyer, 1990, p. 51).

So we can think of governance as including government (the state apparatus) plus all the non-governmental entities (be they private companies, supranational organisations, not-for-profit sector bodies etc) that are involved in the actual process of governing.

Read this overview of the shift from government to governance.

  • How does the extract define governance?
  • In your opinion, is there a shift towards governance?  If so, what is leading this change?

The ‘hollowed-out’ state

One of the major factors leading to the shift from government to governance has been a process termed as a ‘hollowing-out of the state’ by scholars such as Rhodes (1994).

Here, the core observation is that the state is losing its previous responsibilities in multiple directions. Some state responsibilities are going up to supranational organisations (such as the EU), some (in the case of the UK with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales for example) have been devolved down and others, in the areas of privatisation for example, have moved sideways, where former public services are now administered by private bodies or partnerships between the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

Read this summary of the changing nature and ‘hollowing out’ of of the state.

  • Notice the ways the state is said to be ‘hollowing-out’
  • Notice in particular what is said about ‘hollowing-out’ caused by membership of international bodies such as the EU.
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