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A Decentered Theory of Governance


  • Bevir Mark

    (University of California, Berkeley)


There are two leading narratives of governance. One is a neoliberal one about markets that is inspired by rational choice. The other is a story about networks associated with institutionalism in political science. This paper argues that both rational choice and institutionalism rely on assumptions about our ability to readoff peoples beliefs from objective social facts about them, and yet that these assumptions are untenable given the philosophical critique of positivism. Hence, we need to modify our leading theories and narratives of governance. We need to decenter them. The paper then explores the distinctive answers a decentered theory of governance would give to questions such as: Is governance new? Is governance a vague metaphor? Is governance uniform? How does governance change? And is governance failure inevitable? Finally, the paper explores some of the consequences of decentered theory has for how we might think about policy formation and democracy.Il existe deux histoires majeures de la gouvernance. La première, dinspiration néolibérale, s intéresse aux marchés et se fonde sur les choix rationnels. La seconde sintéresse aux réseaux relevant de linstitutionnalisme en science politique. Cet article soutient quaussi bien les choix rationnels que linstitutionnalisme se fondent sur des hypothèses concernant notre possibilité de déterminer les croyances des individus à partir de faits sociaux objectifs, et que néanmoins ces hypothèses sont insoutenables face à la critique philosophique du positivisme. A partir de là, nous devons modifier nos théories majeures ainsi que notre compréhension de la gouvernance. Nous devons les décentrer. Ainsi, larticle explore les différentes réponses quune théorie décentrée de la gouvernance peut apporter à des questions telles que : la gouvernance est-elle nouvelle ? La gouvernance est-elle une vague métaphore ? La gouvernance est-elle uniforme ? Comment la gouvernance évolue-t-elle ? Ou encore, léchec de la gouvernance est-il inévitable ? Finalement, larticle explore quelquesunes des conséquences de la théorie décentrée quant à lélaboration des politiques et la démocratie.

Suggested Citation

  • Bevir Mark, 2002. "A Decentered Theory of Governance," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 12(4), pages 1-25, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:12:y:2002:i:4:n:2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mitchell, William C, 1993. "The Shape of Public Choice to Come: Some Predictions and Advice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 77(1), pages 133-144, September.
    2. Williamson, Oliver E, 1979. "Transaction-Cost Economics: The Governance of Contractural Relations," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 233-261, October.
    3. J. Nicholas Ziegler, 2000. "Corporate Governance and the Politics of Property Rights in Germany," Politics & Society, , vol. 28(2), pages 195-221, June.
    4. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
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