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Modes of Governance: A Note Towards Conceptual Clarification. European Governance Papers, N-05-02, 2005

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Recently, political science has seen an intense debate about the phenomenon of “governance”. The aim of this paper is to clarify the basic concepts that are at the heart of this debate, notably “governance” and “modes of governance”. It argues that most contributions share a common concern for the relationship between state intervention and societal autonomy. But different strands of the literature highlight different facets of this continuum. Existing understandings may be classified according to whether they emphasise the politics, polity or policy dimensions of governance. We use these categories to present a structured overview of different dimensions of modes of governance as they may be found in the literature. In this context, we argue that the classification of modes of governance as “old” or “new” is of little analytical value. Some modes of governance may have been relatively new in some empirical contexts. But the same governing modes may turn out to be long-established practice in other areas. Moving from individual dimensions to systematic classification schemes and typologies of modes of governance, the paper highlights a number of shortcomings of existing schemes and suggests an approach that could avoid these weaknesses. As a first step in this approach, we take a closer look at different policy properties of governance and develop a systematic typology of four modes of governance in the policy dimension: coercion, voluntarism, targeting and framework regulation.
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EUROPEAN GOVERNANCE PAPERS
Oliver Treib, Hol
g
er Bähr and Gerda
Falkner
Andreas Follesdal and Simon Hix
No. N-05-02
Modes of Governance: A Note Towards
Conceptual Clarification
- 2 -
European Governance Papers
EUROGOV
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Date of publication: November 17, 2005
Modes of Governance: A Note Towards Conceptual Clarification
© 2005 Oliver Treib, Holger Bähr and Gerda Falkner
Oliver Treib – treib@ihs.ac.at
Holger Bähr – baehr@ihs.ac.at
Gerda Falkner – falkner@ihs.ac.at
Department of Political Science, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna
Citing this EUROGOV paper:
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Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
- 3 -
Abstract
Recently, political science has seen an intense debate about the phenomenon of
“governance”. The aim of this paper is to clarify the basic concepts that are at the
heart of this debate, notably “governance” and “modes of governance”. It argues that
most contributions share a common concern for the relationship between state
intervention and societal autonomy. But different strands of the literature highlight
different facets of this continuum. Existing understandings may be classified
according to whether they emphasise the politics, polity or policy dimensions of
governance. We use these categories to present a structured overview of different
dimensions of modes of governance as they may be found in the literature. In this
context, we argue that the classification of modes of governance as “old” or “new” is
of little analytical value. Some modes of governance may have been relatively new in
some empirical contexts. But the same governing modes may turn out to be long-
established practice in other areas. Moving from individual dimensions to systematic
classification schemes and typologies of modes of governance, the paper highlights
a number of shortcomings of existing schemes and suggests an approach that could
avoid these weaknesses. As a first step in this approach, we take a closer look at
different policy properties of governance and develop a systematic typology of four
modes of governance in the policy dimension: coercion, voluntarism, targeting and
framework regulation.
Keywords: governance, policy analysis, European law, open co-ordination, policy
learning, national autonomy, interest intermediation, corporatism, pluralism, networks
Table of Contents
1 Introduction ....................................................................................................... 4
2 Definitions of Governance: Politics, Polity or Policy..................................... 5
3 Modes of Governance: An Overview of Existing Conceptions ..................... 6
4 A Two-Step Approach to Classification ........................................................ 11
5 A New Typology of Modes of Governance in the Policy Dimension........... 13
6 Conclusion and Outlook................................................................................. 15
List of References .................................................................................................. 17
List of Figures and Tables..................................................................................... 21
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
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1 Introduction1
In recent years, political science has seen an intense debate about “governance” and
changing “modes of governance” (for an overview, see Kersbergen and Waarden
2004; Kooiman 2003; Mayntz 2004; Pierre 2000a). This debate has also spread into
EU research (see e.g. Eberlein and Kerwer 2002; Héritier 2002; Héritier 2003;
Joerges, Mény and Weiler 2001; Knill and Lenschow 2003; NEWGOV 2004).
However, the existing literature associates a wide variety of different phenomena with
these concepts, ranging from different institutional structures and actor constellations
in political decision-making to varying types of policy instruments. It has been argued
in the context of the corporatism debate that the ambiguity of the notion may have
contributed to its abundant popularity (Czada 1994; Streeck 1994). This might also
hold true for the more recent governance debate. Nonetheless, bringing some order
to chaos could improve the potential for constructive and additive research in the field
without diminishing the overall fascination with “governance” as an object of study.
This paper thus aims to clarify the two core concepts that are at the heart of this
debate, notably “governance” and “modes of governance”. It argues that most
contributions share a common concern for the relationship between state intervention
and societal autonomy. But different strands of the literature highlight different facets
of this continuum. Existing understandings may be classified according to whether
they emphasise the politics, polity or policy dimensions of governance. We use these
categories to present a structured overview of different dimensions of modes of
governance as they may be found in the literature. This overview defines the
“universe” within which research on governance may be located. In this context, we
argue that the classification of modes of governance as “old” or “new” is of little
analytical value. Some modes of governance may have been historically relatively
new in some empirical contexts, which explains why researchers chose to label them
“new”. But the same governing modes may turn out to be long-established practice in
other areas. This underlines the fact that we need analytical categories that describe
the typical properties of governing modes rather than labels that refer to the point of
time of their occurrence in specific empirical contexts.
In addition to the structured assembly of different dimensions of modes of govern-
ance, this paper addresses attempts at creating classification schemes and
typologies that systematically combine different dimensions of governance. We show
that some of the existing schemes are flawed in that they mix up explicit and implicit
dimensions. This analytical fuzziness makes these classification schemes hard to
apply in practice. We propose a two-step approach to classification. In a first step,
modes of governance should be addressed with a focus on the politics, polity and
policy dimensions separately. Possible relations between the three major dimensions
could be explored in a second step. As part of the first step, the paper takes a closer
look at different policy properties of governance and suggests a typology of four
1 This paper originates from a project that is embedded in the pan-European research consortium
NEWGOV (New Modes of Governance), which is funded by the European Union under the Sixth
Framework Programme. Our primary goal is to clarify some of the core concepts underlying this
Integrated Project, but we also aim to contribute to the wider debate on governance within political
science. We thank the anonymous referee for very helpful comments.
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
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different modes of governance in the policy dimension. This typology may be used to
track down changes in the way the EU is trying to reach its diverse policy goals.
In order to set out the argument, the next section (2) discusses different definitions of
governance to be found in the literature. Section 3 presents a structured overview of
different modes of governance. Section 4 then moves from individual dimensions to
classification schemes and typologies. It highlights a number of weaknesses of
existing schemes and suggests an approach that could avoid these weaknesses. As
a first step in this approach, section 5 develops a systematic typology of four different
modes of governance. In section 6, finally, we summarise our main arguments and
provide a short outlook as to how the conceptual clarifications offered in our paper
might be used in a fruitful way by other researchers in the field.
2 Definitions of Governance: Politics, Polity or Policy
A recent textbook identifies the core meaning of governance as steering and
coordination of interdependent (usually collective) actors based on institutionalised
rule systems (Benz 2004). This definition seeks to cover all three understandings of
the concept that have so far been presented in the literature. These different
understandings depend on whether governance is seen as belonging primarily to the
realms of politics, polity or policy.
1. Beate Kohler-Koch relates governance to the politics dimension and to the process
of policy-making. “In essence, ‘governance’ is about the ways and means in which
the divergent preferences of citizens are translated into effective policy choices,
about how the plurality of societal interests are transformed into unitary action and
the compliance of social actors is achieved” (Kohler-Koch 1999). In the European
Union (EU), “network governance” is assumed to be the predominant type of
governance as distinguished from “statism”, “pluralism” and “corporatism” (Eising and
Kohler-Koch 1999). The crucial criterion to distinguish different types of governance
is thus the relationship between public and private actors in the process of policy-
making. This places the concept in the context of terms like interest intermediation or
public-private relations.
2. Following Rosenau (1992), Renate Mayntz conceives of governance as a system
of rules that shapes the actions of social actors. The governance perspective is thus
explicitly conceptualised as an institutional one (Mayntz 2004). Different modes of
governance are situated on a spectrum that is delineated by the two opposing ideal
types of “market” and “hierarchy”. Between these two types, a further set of modes of
governance can be identified, like “community”, “associations” and “networks”
(Schneider and Kenis 1996). It has to be noted, however, that these types are seen
as “ideal types” rather than “real types”. Empirically, only hybrid forms may be found
since one mode of governance always entails elements of other modes of govern-
ance. Otherwise, effective steering and co-ordination would not be possible, e.g.
markets have to rely on a hierarchical authority in order to ensure that contracts are
adhered to (Streeck and Schmitter 1985).
3. Adrienne Héritier defines governance as “mode of political steering” (Héritier
2002). Hence, governance primarily refers to the policy dimension. Policies can be
distinguished according to their steering instruments. These steering instruments
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
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define how particular policy goals should be achieved (Windhoff-Héritier 1987). The
state can apply different types of more or less heavy-handed instruments in order to
achieve certain societal outcomes: command and control, incentive and supply,
information, deliberation and persuasion, as well as all forms of social influence and
control (Baldwin and Cave 1999; Windhoff-Héritier 1987).
4. In addition to the distinction of governance according to politics, polity and policy, a
broad and a restricted way of defining governance may be distinguished. “In the
encompassing sense it [governance] implies every mode of political steering
involving public and private actors, including traditional modes of government and
different types of steering from hierarchical imposition to sheer information meas-
ures” (Héritier 2002). In the restricted sense governance entails only “types of
political steering in which non-hierarchical modes of guidance, such as persuasion
and negotiation, are employed, and/or public and private actors are engaged in policy
formulation” (Héritier 2002). The narrow definition of governance is explicitly
established in opposition to traditional, hierarchical steering instruments. However, a
narrow understanding of governance would complicate the task of analytically
grasping a broad range of different decision-making patterns and policy outputs. To
include not only non-hierarchical, co-operative and soft modes, such a classification
scheme would have to refer to “modes of governance and government” (Héritier
2002), the latter covering the more hierarchical, etatist and heavy-handed end of the
continuum. To avoid this complication, the following analysis is based on an encom-
passing understanding of governance.
3 Modes of Governance: An Overview of Existing Conceptions
As is true for the general concept of governance, there are various conceptions of
what should be considered different modes of governance. This section presents an
overview of possible dimensions of the concept based on the existing literature and
on our own theoretical considerations. As the focus of our own research is on the EU,
this discussion will primarily centre on examples taken from the EU context. Never-
theless, the dimensions presented below could also be used to analyse governance
at the domestic or international levels.
This overview is not intended to be a haphazard shopping list compiling all possible
dimensions that could be used to characterise decision-making processes and the
related policy outputs. Instead, we strive for a systematic and focused stock-taking
exercise. Therefore, we need a criterion that defines which dimensions should be
included and which ones should not. In this context, we argue that the common focus
of most, if not all, contributions to the governance debate is on “the role of the state in
society” (Pierre 2000b). In other words, scholars interested in governance usually
look at aspects of the relationship between state intervention and societal autonomy.
To avoid concept stretching (Sartori 1970), we exclude all dimensions from our
overview of modes of governance which cannot be located on this continuum
between public authority and societal self-regulation. For example, decision-making
processes may be classified according to the main interaction orientations that
prevail among actors, ranging from bargaining to arguing or deliberation. Yet, this
does not belong to the realm of governance as we understand it, which is why we
exclude this category. The same is true for a number of dimensions of modes of
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
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governance that have been suggested in the literature. For example, Grosse (2005)
points to the degree of transparency of public administrations as one property of
modes of governance. Walker (2005) distinguishes between “focus on administration
and institutions” and “focus on outcomes and policies”. As these dimensions do not
appear to relate to the intensity of state intervention, we also exclude them from our
overview.
In addition to providing a criterion that distinguishes between modes of governance
and other characteristics of collective decision-making, we organise the different
modes in a structured fashion. While the governance debate as a whole revolves
around issues of state intervention and societal autonomy, different strands of the
literature have focused on different facets of this phenomenon. As we have already
shown above, the different approaches can be organised according to whether they
highlight elements of the politics, polity and policy dimensions (see Figure 1 for an
overview).
Figure 1: Existing Conceptions of Modes of Governance
Modes of Governance in the Policy Dimension
1. Legal bindingness versus soft law: In terms of policies, policy outputs can either
bind member states or private actors to pursue particular reforms or merely make
suggestions that may be followed by the norm addressees voluntarily. Policy outputs
in the form of regulations, directives, and decisions are legally binding for the
member states and for private actors, whereas policy guidelines such as those
issued in the framework of the European Employment Strategy only have the
character of non-binding recommendations (see e.g. de la Porte and Pochet 2002;
Mosher and Trubek 2003; Pochet 2005). Recent EU labour law has even seen a
mixture of binding and non-binding provisions within a single policy instrument. The
Directives on Parental Leave and Part-time Work, for example, lay down binding
standards, but they also include a number of recommendations that member states
and employers may or may not respect (Falkner, Treib, Hartlapp, and Leiber 2005).
2. Rigid versus flexible approach to implementation: Closely related (but not identical)
to the first criterion, policy outputs may either rely on a rigid mode of implementation,
defining detailed standards without much flexibility, or they may leave norm address-
ees and implementing actors more leeway in adapting them to local circumstances or
individual interests, e.g. by providing a range of alternative options to choose from,
by offering possibilities to derogate from individual provisions or to exempt certain
groups of persons or branches of the economy etc. from being covered by the rules.
In EU social policy, the Regulations on Driving Hours in Road Transport (1985) are a
good example of policies with a rigid mode of implementation. This is already evident
from the legal instruments used – directly applicable regulations rather than direc-
tives that have to be incorporated into domestic legislation by member states.
Moreover, the regulations define very detailed standards and leave few opportunities
for derogation or exemption (Butt Philipp 1988). Implementation of the European
Works Councils Directive (1994), in contrast, was much more flexible, leaving
member states and private actors a range of options to choose from (see e.g.
Streeck 1997). The directive required large trans-national companies to establish
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
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mechanisms of information and consultation of employees. However, it only defined
a number of minimum requirements as to what these mechanisms should look like,
and it allowed existing schemes of information and consultation to be maintained
unchanged even if they did not comply with these minimum requirements. Instead of
imposing a one-size-fits-all solution for all, both member states and companies were
offered a range of choices in implementation.
3. Presence versus absence of sanctions: Policies also differ with regard to their
enforceability (Abbott et al. 2000; Goldstein, Kahler, Keohane, and Slaughter 2000;
Walker 2005). Community law may usually be enforced by the Commission and the
European Court of Justice. If member states fail to comply with EU law, the Commis-
sion can initiate an infringement procedure which may lead to a judgement by the
ECJ and, ultimately, to heavy financial sanctions. However, certain EU policies may
not be enforced through this procedure. This is true for the Common Foreign and
Security Policy, Justice and Home Affairs (where the ECJ has powers to interpret
legal acts but not to act against non-compliant member states) and for all non-binding
policies, e.g. in the framework of OMC.
4. Material versus procedural regulation: Policies may either set material standards,
or their focus may be a procedural one. EU environmental policy has long been
marked by detailed material standards. For example, the Directives on Bathing and
Drinking Water (1975 and 1980) define specific standards on water quality in the
form of maximum concentrations of toxic substances (Jordan 1999). Many of the so-
called “new instruments”, in contrast, have their focus on the establishment of certain
procedures that are thought to raise environmental awareness and to strengthen the
role of environmental groups (Knill and Lenschow 2000b). Examples for this new
approach are the Directives on Freedom of Access to Environmental Information
(1990) and Environmental Impact Assessment (2001).
5. Fixed versus malleable norms: This dimension refers to the more or less fixed and
context-dependent character of the norms included in a particular policy instrument.
Walker (2005) refers to “new governance” as comparatively more open-textured,
revisable and integrated with other norms and policies.2
Modes of Governance in the Politics Dimension
6. Only public actors involved versus only private actors involved: Governance can
be regarded as a decision-making system that provides for the involvement of
different kinds of actors. We have not found any sub-dimensions of the politics facet
of governance in the literature. Two extreme poles can be distinguished: Either only
public actors or only private actors are involved in policy-making. On the one hand, a
hierarchical state leaves the policy process to public actors. On the other hand, only
private actors are involved in self-regulation by firms without state intervention or in
self-organisation of communities. Between these two poles there are several modes
of governance which involve both public and private actors, like different forms of
“policy networks” (Marin and Mayntz 1991) or bureaucracies that have been
restructured according to the New Public Management approach which entrusts
formerly public tasks to private businesses (Kersbergen and Waarden 2004; Mol,
2 Another category of Walker is whether there is a hierarchy of norms versus a “heterarchy and
interaction (web) of norms”. This seems to refer to a different level of analysis not judging individual
norms but the entire class of norms, which is why we do not include it in our figure.
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
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Liefferink, and Lauber 2000). Empirically, there is not any mode of governance that
includes either only public or only private actors. It can only be stated that a certain
type of actor is predominant. Using the classification of Wolfgang Streeck and
Philippe C. Schmitter, for example, the state is dominated by public actors, whereas
in markets private actors prevail. Private interest government can be located on the
continuum between these two types of social order (Streeck and Schmitter 1985).
Even processes of private self-regulation may be influenced by the state, since they
often emerge only under the threat of state intervention (Héritier 2002; Mayntz and
Scharpf 1995).
Modes of Governance in the Polity Dimension
7. Hierarchy versus market: Irrespective of whether public or private actors are
involved in decision-making, the institutional structure of their interactions can either
be hierarchical, which gives one or a few actors the possibility to reach collectively
binding decisions without the consent of the others, or it can resemble a market
structure, where every actor remains free to choose their desired courses of action.
In between these opposing extremes, there may be several other types of institu-
tional structures. The most prominent of these is the network structure, which
denotes a non-hierarchical constellation of interdependent actors with varying power
resources (for an overview of different institutional structures among actors, see
Scharpf 1997).
8. Central versus dispersed locus of authority: A related institutional dimension is
whether the locus of authority is centralised or dispersed. This concerns the horizon-
tal (among central state actors) as much as the vertical dimension (among territorial
units or boundaries of the state). Neil Walker (2005), for example, has included this
dimension in his overview of characteristics of “new” and “old” governance.3 Grosse
(Grosse 2005) also discusses centralised intervention versus decentral action as
opposing ideal-types.
9. Institutionalised versus non-institutionalised interactions: Finally, modes of
governance may be distinguished according to the degree of formal institutionalisa-
tion of decision-making and implementation processes (Wessels 2005). In the EU
context, some of the governance mechanisms discussed under the heading of new
modes of governance, especially many of the OMC processes, are marked by less
institutionalised procedures since they are not based on the Treaties. The decision-
making and implementation procedures are thus not constitutionally specified, which
allows for more flexibility. In contrast, ordinary Community legislation typically is
based on the Treaties, with relatively clear rules as to who is involved in decision-
making, how decisions may be reached, how they have to be implemented and who
is in charge of monitoring compliance.
Readers may have noticed that our overview avoids the fashionable labels of “old”
and “new” modes of governance. This is because we think it more appropriate to use
analytical concepts to classify modes of governance than categories that describe
the historical occurrence of certain phenomena within a particular field of study.
Whether a given mode of governance is “new” or “old” is an empirical rather than an
3 The same author has pointed to the differing styles of state intervention in the sense of “com-
mand and control” versus a more “mediating” state. We subsume this dimension under the “hierarchy
versus market” dimension.
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
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analytical question. It requires a more detailed specification of the period of time that
is deemed “recent” or “long ago”. Should we consider a mode of governance new if it
emerged within the last five or ten years, within the last two or three decades, or
within the last century? The last two or three decades probably come closest to the
implicit understanding in much of the literature. But it still remains a matter of
perspective. After all, the founding of the European Community as a whole, including
all of its modes of supranational governance, might be regarded a rather recent
phenomenon by many historians. Moreover, the question of whether a mode of
governance should be considered “old” or “new” also depends on the specific policy
area one is focusing on. Many supposedly innovative forms of governance, which
owe their being labelled “new” to the fact that they occurred rather recently in one
particular field of study, may turn out to be quite old in other contexts (this point was
also highlighted by Monar 2005).
As an illustration, consider the example of interest group participation in EU policy-
making. Since the Maastricht Treaty, EU-level organisations of labour and industry
have assumed the role of formal co-legislators who are able to negotiate on the
contents of EU directives in the field of EU social policy (Falkner 1998). Due to the
important role of private actors in public policy-making, Adrienne Héritier treats the
voluntary negotiations of EU social partner organisations on agreements that may
then be turned into legally binding Directives as a new mode of governance (Héritier
2003). Yet, the tradition of rather intense social partner involvement in this policy
area goes back far beyond the early 1990s. Moreover, co-operative or even outright
corporatist patterns of interest intermediation at the European level seem to have
existed, at least to some degree, for decades in fields like the Common Agricultural
Policy as well (Grant 1993; Kirchner and Schwaiger 1981; Sargent 1985; Schwaiger
and Kirchner 1981). This is all the more true if we turn our attention to the domestic
level. In countries like Denmark, Sweden or Austria, the intense involvement of social
partners in social and economic policy-making can hardly be seen as a recent
phenomenon – at least if “recent” delineates a time span covering the last half
century or so. In Austria, for example, social partnership rather seems to have been
in retreat recently (Tálos and Kittel 2001).
An encompassing, yet structured, tableau of different understandings of governance
and modes of governance, as we have tried to present above, is useful for heuristic
purposes and represents a necessary first step to ensure that scholars interested in
governance talk about the same things. It almost goes without saying that the
multiplicity of dimensions implies that there are probably many hybrid forms of
governance modes that combine elements of different dimensions. As argued by
Rhodes (2005), “some of the most fascinating puzzles may be found at the bounda-
ries of governing modes, both old and new, where they overlap, merge into one
another and develop hybrid forms”. This is certainly true for different sub-dimensions
of modes of governance within the three major dimensions of politics, polity and
policy. Below, we will present a typology that systematically combines two important
sub-dimensions of modes of governance in the policy dimension. But empirical
overlaps may also exist across the politics, polity and policy dimensions. For
example, policy networks usually consist of both public and private actors (politics),
and they are characterised by a non-hierarchical institutional decision-making
structure (polity). One interesting question in this context would be whether such “real
types” of modes of governance in the politics/polity dimension also produce charac-
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
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teristic modes of governance in terms of policy outputs. The following sections
discuss how research on governance could deal with these issues in a constructive
way.
4 A Two-Step Approach to Classification
So far, we have shown that there are many different individual aspects of govern-
ance, ranging from institutional properties to actor constellations and policy
instruments. All of these dimensions may legitimately serve as a basis for classifying
different modes of governance and for analysing changes in governance modes over
time. This does not mean, however, that we should mix up all kinds of different
aspects in our analytical schemes. This becomes particularly relevant if we want to
move from classifying on the basis of individual dimensions, as they are outlined in
Figure 1 above, to building analytically meaningful classification schemes and
typologies of different modes of governance. If these are to be useful, they should be
built upon a limited number of clearly specified dimensions. Unfortunately, this is not
always the case, as may be illustrated by two examples that we have found in the
literature.
1. The first example is taken from the “Description of Work” of the trans-European
research consortium NEWGOV. It provides a classification and a typology of modes
of governance. The classification is built on a continuum ranging from soft modes
that are exclusively in the competence of governments to hard modes characterised
by hierarchy. This continuum also entails the distinction between Treaty-based and
non-Treaty-based modes of governance. While two classes of soft modes have no
basis in the Treaties, all the others are Treaty-based. These modes of governance
are put in relation to policy domains that are characterised by one mode of govern-
ance (NEWGOV 2004). The classification may certainly serve the purpose of a first
organisation of the research subject. However, the classes refer to different proper-
ties of governance, e.g. the open method of co-ordination contains several soft
steering instruments like common guidelines, periodic monitoring, evaluation and
peer review (Borrás and Jacobsson 2004), hierarchy is mainly regarded as an
institutionalised rule structure and the community method is a particular mode of
policy-making in the EU (Wallace 2000).
An elaboration of the classification is provided by a typology formed by the dimen-
sions of “actors involved” and “steering modes” (NEWGOV 2004). Table 1
reproduces this typology.
Table 1: Modes of Governance According to NEWGOV’s “Description of Work”
Like the classification, the typology has some inherent weaknesses. First, steering
modes, as conceptualised in the typology, are not one-dimensional. Hierarchical vs.
non-hierarchical modes of governance and arguing vs. bargaining constitute two
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
- 12 -
different dimensions.4 The first dichotomy refers to the rule structure and the second
to the mode of interaction. Both bargaining and arguing may take place within
hierarchical structures as well. Second, although the typology seems to pinpoint
different institutional structures and different actor constellations, it also contains
issues that belong to the policy dimension. In particular, “benchmarking” seems to be
a category that denotes a certain policy instrument rather than a mode of interaction.
After all, benchmarking is not restricted to public-private networks, but could well be
practiced among governmental actors as well – as is the case within the OECD, for
example.
2. The second example consists of Knill and Lenschow’s (2003) typology, which is
deemed to reflect the policy dimension of governance. On the basis of the dimen-
sions “level of obligation” and “level of discretion”, they identify four modes of
regulation: regulatory standards; new instruments; self-regulation in the shadow of
the state; and the open method of co-ordination (see Table 2).
Table 2: Modes of Regulation According to Knill and Lenschow
The conception of Knill and Lenschow is a promising point of departure for all those
who want to focus on the policy characteristics of modes of governance. However,
the typology gives examples for policy instruments that represent each mode of
governance instead of providing general types. Moreover, their definition of the level
of obligation and discretion has no uniform point of reference. The typology refers to
the leeway of member states in the implementation of EU rules on the one hand and
to the degree of autonomy of private actors at both EU and national levels vis-à-vis
public intervention. It is thus based on three dimensions instead of two: legal
bindingness, flexibility of implementation and public-private relations. This is also
evident from the description of the category “new instruments”, which, as the authors
openly admit, consists of “a mixed bag of regulatory tools” (Knill and Lenschow 2003;
2004). It comprises policies described as “framework regulation”, which leave
member states a high level of discretion. Moreover, it covers “economic” and
“communicative” instruments, which are less heavy-handed than traditional legisla-
tion vis-à-vis economic and societal actors.
These examples illustrate that in order to classify modes of governance, our
categorisation schemes should include sharply delimited dimensions. At the same
time, they should not become overtly complex; that is, they should probably not
include more than two or three different dimensions. One promising way to proceed
in this situation is to follow a two-step approach. In the first step, we could develop
separate classification schemes for the politics, polity and policy dimensions and to
use these schemes as the basis for our empirical investigations. It seems wise,
therefore, to begin by looking at (changing) modes of governance in terms of policy
instruments without simultaneously taking into account what kind of actors were
involved in, and what kind of institutional conditions structured, the production of
4 It should be added that according to our conception, arguing and bargaining are not even appro-
priate characteristics of governance, as they do not relate to the relationship between state
intervention and societal autonomy (see above).
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
- 13 -
these policy instruments. Conversely, tracking down different styles of decision-
making in terms of actor constellations or institutional structures is best done without
simultaneously including the types of policies that are the result of decision-making.
In a second step, the different findings from the three dimensions could be combined.
It may or may not turn out empirically that certain modes of decision-making are likely
to produce certain policy outputs, and it would be desirable to look for such possible
clusters of different kinds of governance modes – but only as a second step of
analysis.
5 A New Typology of Modes of Governance in the Policy Dimen-
sion
In order to give an example of what such a clearly defined typology that focuses on
one of the three major aspects of governance could look like, we present a new
typology of four modes of governance in the policy dimension. Other typologies
focusing on actor constellations and institutional structures could follow. For the
purposes of this paper, however, we will restrict ourselves to taking a closer look at
types of governance modes in the policy dimension.
The following typology takes the modes of regulation identified by Knill and Len-
schow as a starting point, but leaves out the hidden dimension of “public-private
relations”. Hence, we identify modes of governance according to whether they are
based on legally binding provisions or soft law and whether they involve a rigid or a
flexible approach to implementation (see Table 3). We argue that these two criteria
grasp the most crucial dimensions of different policy instruments as they are currently
discussed in EU research. Binding provisions refer to legal acts, namely regulations,
directives, and decisions. Non-binding instruments are recommendations, opinions,
and such non-binding acts as “conclusions” and “declarations”. However, we should
be aware of the possibility that legally binding instruments may nevertheless entail
soft law. A flexible approach to implementation leaves member states considerable
room for manoeuvre in incorporation and application of commonly agreed provisions,
e.g. by offering exemption and derogation possibilities or by allowing member states
to choose from a variety of possible policy options. A rigid approach to implementa-
tion, in contrast, defines unequivocal standards to be fulfilled in a uniform fashion
across all member states.
Table 3: A New Typology of Four Modes of Governance
Four modes of governance can be identified:
1. Coercion is characterised by binding legal instruments prescribing detailed and
fixed standards that leave little leeway in implementation. This mode of governance
is least flexible in that it entails fully binding and highly prescriptive pieces of EU
legislation. In other words, it is most intrusive in terms of EU intervention vis-à-vis
domestic societies. The regulations on drivers’ hours (1969) and tachographs (1970)
in road transport could be named as examples of this mode of governance. Both
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
- 14 -
regulations gave rise to major implementation problems due to their detailed and rigid
provisions (Butt Philipp 1988).
2. Voluntarism is the complete opposite of this traditional mode of steering. It is
based on non-binding instruments and only defines broad goals that member states
may specify in implementation. The broad and legally non-compulsory guidelines that
have characterised much of the processes in the framework of the open method of
co-ordination are the best example for this type of governance. They are not only
legally non-binding, but they typically also define policy goals to be achieved rather
than concrete reforms to be initiated, leaving it up to the member states to define how
to achieve these goals. Therefore, this mode of governance is the one with the
lowest level of supranational intervention.
3. Targeting is slightly more intrusive vis-à-vis member states. It also uses non-
binding recommendations, but these recommendations are more detailed and thus
leave less room for manoeuvre for specification at the implementation stage than is
true in the case of voluntarism.5 Some of the non-binding recommendations con-
tained in recent social policy directives may serve as an illustration. For example, the
Part-time Work Directive recommends that employers should, as far as possible,
accept requests from employees to transfer from full-time to part-time work and vice
versa. To that end, employers are called upon to provide timely information on vacant
full-time or part-time jobs in their enterprises (Falkner, Treib, Hartlapp, and Leiber
2005).
4. Framework regulation, finally, remains within the realm of binding law. Unlike
coercion, however, it offers member states more leeway in implementation, e.g. by
defining only broad goals to be specified by member states, by presenting a range of
policy options to choose from. In the field of EU labour law, many recent Directives
are characterised by considerable amounts of flexibility. Above, we have already
mentioned the European Works Councils Directive, which is one particularly good
example of this type of governance mode. Other examples have been identified in
environmental policy (Knill and Lenschow 2000a). The level of EU intervention of this
mode of governance is thus higher than in the case of the non-binding policy
instruments included in the categories of targeting and subsidiarity, but lower than in
coercion.
In our view, this typology is a good starting point to map the changes in modes of
governance in the policy dimension. A classification of the EU’s policy outputs on the
basis of this typology could shed new light on differences in the way the EU tries to
reach its policy goals in different policy areas, and it could reveal changes in the level
of intrusiveness of EU policy-making over time.
5 It is true that benchmarking is somewhat similar. However, benchmarking typically involves goals
with a variety of dimensions. Therefore, multidimensional “models” are typically recommended. This
makes the overall recommendation more blurred, in particular where contradictory goals are at stake.
Targeting, as we understand it here, rather highlights one clear goal involving only one dimension,
which makes the enterprise comparatively more rigid.
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
- 15 -
6 Conclusion and Outlook
The goal of this paper was to clarify the basic concepts underlying the governance
debate that has been going on for a couple of years now, notably “governance” and
“modes of governance”. We showed that there are many different conceptions of
governance in the literature, and we demonstrated that there are even more
understandings of different modes of governance. Our “hub and spikes figure”
provides a structured illustration of the different dimensions attributed to “modes of
governance” in the literature (see Figure 1). Three important points should be
highlighted in this context: First, the unifying element of most contributions is that
they refer to the relationship between state intervention on the one hand and societal
autonomy on the other. Second, different strands of the literature have focused on
different facets of this relationship. Accordingly, our overview is organised according
to a conception of governance that encompasses institutional properties (polity),
actor constellations (politics) and policy instruments (policy). Third, we do not
consider it appropriate to use the labels of “old” and “new” modes of governance for
classificatory purposes. What is new in one area could be rather old in another field
of study, which makes these labels inadequate as analytical categories.
As the variety of different understandings in the literature is a huge potential source
of misunderstandings, it is crucial to be aware of the diversity of dimensions underly-
ing the terms “governance” and “modes of governance”. To be sure, scholars do not
need to share one single conception of governance and relevant modes of govern-
ance, but constructive and cumulative research would be vastly facilitated if each
researcher were to specify clearly on which dimension(s) they are focusing and
which of the dimensions are excluded.
The importance of analytical clarity is also underlined if we move from individual
dimensions to classification schemes and typologies. We demonstrated that many of
the existing schemes in the literature are inherently inconclusive as they mix up
different explicit and implicit dimensions. In order to avoid such analytical problems,
the paper suggested a two-step approach to classification. In the first step, modes of
governance should be classified according to their policy, polity and politics proper-
ties in separation. Only on this basis, a second step could then draw meaningful
cross-linkages between institutional structures, actor constellations and resulting
policy instruments.
As part of the first step, we looked at the policy dimension in more detail and
presented a typology of four modes of governance in the policy dimension: coercion,
voluntarism, targeting and framework regulation. These four types are distinguished
along two dimensions: the type of instruments applied (legally binding legislation or
soft law) and the approach to implementation (flexible or rigid). Further typologies for
the other two dimensions could follow suit.
In our view, it should be possible to use this typology as a useful tool to compare
different policy fields of the EU with a view to their characteristics in terms of various
policy instruments. This could be done both from a synchronous perspective
(comparing policy fields at one point of time) and from a historical perspective
(comparing the state of individual policy fields at different points of time). On this
basis, an overall comparison across policy fields and over time could be attempted.
Similar analyses could be conducted with a focus on actor constellations and
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
- 16 -
institutional conditions. This might, in the end, result in an overall picture of changing
modes of governance within the European Union.
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
- 17 -
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List of Figures and Tables
Figure 1: Existing Conceptions of Modes of Governance
state intervention societal autonomy
soft law
institutionalised
interactions
non-institutionalised
interactions
only private
actors involved
only public
actors involved
legal
bindingness
material
regulation
procedural
regulation
presence of
sanctions
absence of
sanctions
rigid approach to
implementation
flexible approach
to implementation
market
hierarchy
dispersed locus
of authority
malleable
norms
fixed
norms
central locus
of authority
p
olicy
p
olitics
p
olity
Treib / Bähr / Falkner: Modes of Governance
- 22 -
Table 1: Modes of Governance According to NEWGOV’s “Description of Work”
Actors Involved
Public Actors
Only Public and
Private Actors Private Actors
Only
Hierarchical
Top-down/
Legal Sanctions
Traditional
Nation-state,
Supranational
Institutions
Non-hierarchical
Bargaining/
Positive Incentives
Intergovernmen-
tal Bargaining Delegation of
public functions
to private actors;
Neo-corporatism
Private-interest
government
Steering
Modes
Non-hierarchical
Non-manipulative;
Persuasion; Learning
and Arguing;
Diffusion
Institutional
Problem-solving
across levels;
European
Agencies
Public-private
networks;
Benchmarking
Private-private
partnership
(NGOs)
Source: NEWGOV (2004)
Table 2: Modes of Regulation According to Knill and Lenschow
High level of obligation Low level of obligation
High level of
discretion
New Instruments
economic, communicative,
framework regulation
OMC
Open method of coordination
Low level of
discretion
Regulatory Standards
substantive, procedural Self-regulation
in the shadow of the state
Source: Knill and Lenschow (2003)
Table 3: A New Typology of Four Modes of Governance
Legal Instrument
Binding Non-binding
Rigid Coercion Targeting
Implementation Flexible Framework
Regulation Voluntarism
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