Published January 1, 2012 | Version v1
Working paper Open

WP 7: Forms of Political Governance: Theoretical Foundations and Ideal Types

  • 1. Universität Luzern


The Working Paper provides the theoretical foundations for an analytically and normatively adequate understanding of “governance” – a term and concept that has been widely used since the turn of the millennium for describing new forms of political steering and integration. It starts with an overview of the governance discourse at the beginning of the 21st century. We can distinguish a normative and an analytical application of the term governance. In its normative usage, governance constitutes a programmatic alternative to other paradigms for organizing and reforming the state and public administration. The competing paradigms can be subsumed under the terms government and management. For analytical purposes, the term governance is used, by contrast, to diagnose a change in forms of political steering, and sometimes even in politics and statehood altogether and to aptly conceptualise this change.
After a critique of existing understandings and typologies, we develop the theoretical building blocks for a comprehensive and at the same time differentiated understanding of governance. First, we look at ‘worldviews’ (Weltbilder), basic assumptions on how the world is functioning or on how the world is supposed to function. Hence, worldviews can correspond to ontologies, basic assumptions on the type of entities that exist and on their relationships, but also to ideologies as comprehensive conceptualisations of an ideal world. We distinguish between holistic and elementaristic worldviews. Second, we turn to “images of social order” (Gesellschaftsbilder) as the fundamental assumptions on how societies are differentiated and on what holds societies together and describe two basic forms: segmentary differentiation and mechanical integration on the one hand and functional differentiation and organic integration on the other hand. “Models of human nature” (Menschenbilder) serve as the third differentiation criteria for the formation of a theory-based typology of governance. Each model of human nature comprises a concept of human behaviour/action and the corresponding understanding of institutionalised structures which influence human behaviour but which are shaped by human behaviour at the same time. The two most important models of human nature in modern social sciences are the homo oeconomicus and homo sociologicus. In order to develop a typology of forms of political governance, we will pick up the third dimension and transform the core insight from the micro- to the macro-level. In line with the homo oeconomicus, the term “government(s)” represents an understanding of political institutions as formalized instruments of the political community; in contrast, the term “governance” denotes a constitutional understanding of political institutions as a communicative structure which (re)creates the political community.
Based on these three dimensions, we develop an eightfold typology of forms of governance. Whereas “centralised government”, “concerted governments”, “competing governments” and “contracting governments” correspond to the instrumental understanding of institutions in line with the homo oeconomicus, the other four forms – “communitarian governance”, “civic governance”, “creative governance” and “cogent governance” – build on the constitutive conceptualisation of institutions that correspond to the homo sociologicus. For each of the eight ideal types, we scrutinise the core features so that the typology can be applied in empirical studies for tracing differences and transformations of ideas and realities in political governing across time and place.


+ Sprache: eng



Files (2.0 MB)