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Theorizing Modes of Governance in the EU: Institutional Design and Informational Complexity


  • Blom, Tannelie
  • Radulova, Elissaveta
  • Arnold, Christine


This article aims to provide a better understanding as to why different institutional arrangements have the particular structural properties which they are found to have. Drawing on the system theoretical tradition in sociology and on ‘complexity theory’, this paper presents an analytical framework whose underpinnings are in the idea that the structural characteristics of institutions and organisations are functionally related to the informational complexity which such social systems have to sustain. This paper starts with an account of the EU political system as an ‘information processing’ system. The ‘informational complexity’, which such a system has to cope with, is analysed and conceptualised along three different dimensions: density of communication, structurability of information and heterogeneity of beliefs and interests. Next an eight-fold classification of EU modes of governance is developed based on the dimensions of centralization/dispersion (of authority), strict/loose coupling (of system units) and inclusive/exclusive access (to decision making). Linking this classification to the model of informational complexity, it is shown that the dimensions of institutional variation can be interpreted as dimensions of institutional adaptation to informational complexity. Finally, the implications of the model are reflected in terms of the hypotheses it suggests.

Suggested Citation

  • Blom, Tannelie & Radulova, Elissaveta & Arnold, Christine, 2008. "Theorizing Modes of Governance in the EU: Institutional Design and Informational Complexity," European Governance Papers (EUROGOV) 4, CONNEX and EUROGOV networks.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:eurogo:p0020

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pollack, Mark A., 1994. "Creeping Competence: The Expanding Agenda of the European Community," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(02), pages 95-145, April.
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:94:y:2000:i:02:p:251-267_22 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Treib, Oliver & Bähr, Holger & Falkner, Gerda, 2005. "Modes of Governance: A Note Towards Conceptual Clarification," European Governance Papers (EUROGOV) 2, CONNEX and EUROGOV networks.
    4. Jonas Tallberg, 2004. "The Power of the Presidency: Brokerage, Efficiency and Distribution in EU Negotiations," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(5), pages 999-1022, December.
    5. Wayne Snvdholtz, 1996. "Membership Matters: Limits of the Functional Approach to European Institutions," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(3), pages 403-429, September.
    6. Koremenos, Barbara & Lipson, Charles & Snidal, Duncan, 2001. "The Rational Design of International Institutions," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(04), pages 761-799, September.
    7. March, James G. & Olsen, Johan P., 1998. "The Institutional Dynamics of International Political Orders," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 943-969, September.
    8. Ken Kollman, 2003. "The Rotating Presidency of the European Council as a Search for Good Policies," European Union Politics, , vol. 4(1), pages 51-74, March.
    9. Pollack, Mark A., 2003. "The Engines of European Integration: Delegation, Agency, and Agenda Setting in the EU," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199251179.
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    institutions; governance; functionalism; neo-institutionalism; open coordination; centralisation/decentralisation; diversity/homogeneity; sociology; political science;

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