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Introduction

Emmanuelle Avril, Lucie de Carvalho, Jihane Ghelfi et Thibaud Harrois
p. 9-18

Résumé

The purpose of this volume is to present a study of the notion of governance in the specific time and space context of the United Kingdom from 1997 to the present, so as to highlight the ways in which it has evolved in relation to British public policies. The contributions gathered here put forward a rethink the transformations of public and state action, especially in the sectors that have been most reformed, such as health, education, or energy, in the face of the combined imperatives of devolution, pressure from international trade dynamics, and the growing influence of the European Union and intergovernmental agencies.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

1 Over the past 20 years, the notion of governance has risen to prominence in the field of public policy studies. The purpose of this volume is to present a study of the notion of governance in the specific time and space context of the United Kingdom from 1997 to the present, so as to highlight the ways in which it has evolved in relation to British public policies. The contributions gathered here put forward a rethink the transformations of public and state action, especially in the sectors that have been most reformed, such as health, education, or energy, in the face of the combined imperatives of devolution, pressure from international trade dynamics, and the growing influence of the European Union and intergovernmental agencies. The forthcoming 2015 general election provides an opportunity to take stock of the research on British public policy management.

  • 1 Rosenau J.N. & Czempiel, E. O. (eds), Governance without Government: Order and Change in World Poli (...)
  • 2 Avril, E. & Zumello, C. (eds), New Technology, Organization Change and Governance, Basingstoke, Pal (...)
  • 3 Bevir, M. & Rhodes, R.A.W., Interpreting British Governance, London, Routledge, 2003: 9.

2 The concept of governance has in fact been utilized in a wide range of academic fields, from political science, to public administration, policy-making, planning, and sociology1 to mark a distancing from the concept of “government”, defined as the execution and implementation of activities backed by those with legally and formally derived authority. Governance, on the other hand, refers to the creation, execution, and implementation of activities backed by the shared goals of citizens and organisations who may not have formal authority, and results from a quest to “share power in decision-making, encourage autonomy and independence in citizens, and provide a process for developing the ‘common good’ through civic engagement.”2 According to Mark Bevir and R.A.W. Rhodes’s seminal study Interpreting British Governance, governance “refer[s] to the changing boundary between the British state and the civil society, in particular to the ways in which the informal authority of networks constitutes, supplements and supplants the formal authority of the state.”3 In other words, the notion of governance has emerged as a modernized version of government, referring to the transformation of the hierarchical, rigid, state-centered decision-making structure associated with past forms of government, to ever-more fluid structures integrating a wider array of actors - notably from the civil society.

3 As a result the age of governance has often been narrowly interpreted as the end of the state’s authority. It has indeed been argued that the increasing use of governance has been congruent with a gradual erosion of state involvement in public policy-making and implementation processes, a process encapsulated in the notion of a “hollowed-out” state. In the UK, the Thatcher years most forcefully illustrate such a trend. The logics of the private sphere have indeed been applied to the public sector, as illustrated by the rise of New Public Management (NPM) Theory, thus entailing a reassessment of the role of the state within British society as a whole. This subsequently caused a progressive withdrawal of the British state embodied by a shift in power from a waning public sector to private partners, who from then on came to be in charge of implementing political decisions through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

  • 4 Osborne, D. & Gaebler, T., Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming P (...)
  • 5 For a critical evaluation of the concepts of “steering” and “rowing” see Peters, B. G., ‘Steering, (...)
  • 6 Stoker, G., ‘Governance as Theory: Five Propositions’, International Social Science Journal, 1998, (...)
  • 7 Jessop, B., ‘Bring the State Back In (Yet Again): Reviews, Revisions, Rejections, and Redirections’ (...)

4 Generally speaking, “steering” (providing guidance and direction) and “rowing”(producing goods and services) became two clearly distinct processes of public action.4 While policy remained the prerogative of government, services were best provided by the private or nonprofit sectors.5 Such an evolution fuelled some critical analyses stemming from radical geography or neo-Marxist theory which contended that governance was being used not only as a means to justify a gradual dismantling of the state, but also as “the acceptable face of tax cuts”.6 The possibly negative effects of those new lines of public management have also been put to the fore by many research works.7

  • 8 Peters, B. G., Pierre, J., Governance, Politics and the State, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000; Bernard (...)
  • 9 Peter, B. G., op. cit., 2011, 6.
  • 10 Salamon, L. M., ‘Introduction’, in Salamon, (ed), Tools of Government: a Guide to the New Governanc (...)

5 Conversely, the empowerment of citizens and private partners, induced by their increased involvement in the public policy-making process, has been seen by others as paving the way for a more participatory form of democracy. From that point of view, the civil society would appear as having more sway over the decision-making process thanks to forums, public inquiries and public consultation processes at the local, regional or national levels. Those interpretations therefore consider governance as a way to restore the balance of power between the state, citizens and private stakeholder8. This increased involvement of social actors in decision-making processes is also argued to enhance the efficiency of the public sector, “since these actors provide not only democratic legitimacy but also valuable information about target populations of programs.”9 In addition, New Governance has come with a set of new, less intrusive instruments10 – such as networks or partnerships - which have tended to replace (or at least complement) the more direct, top-down, command-and-control traditional instruments, thereby making it politically easier to deploy.

  • 11 Bevir, M. & Rhodes, R.A.W., op.cit., 45.

6 Because the body of literature on public policies hinges on this critical notion of governance, there is a need to evaluate its continued validity as a tool to analyse the changes recently experienced by the British political system. It may be that the notion of governance has now turned into a “blanket term to represent a change in the nature or meaning of government”, too loose to be of any real scientific use.11 It is therefore appropriate to reflect not only on the modalities or consequences of governance, but also on the notion itself, whose meaning remains hazy and even at times perverted for political purposes, has possibly become outdated due to too frequent a use.

7 The contributions in this issue also seek to identify regular patterns in terms of goals, mechanisms and instruments which would outline a possible British model of governance. On the other hand, motley public policies would seem to indicate that public action is actually quite fragmented. British public policies would thus be shaped by the nature of the sector they target and not the other way round, as shown through the various examples of British public policies presented here, which seek both to broach the origins of the notion and the institutional changes it triggered under the New Labour government and then under the Coalition government, and to provide critical hindsight on the issues of accountability, democracy, or the redefinition of the state-private stakeholder paradigm.

  • 12 Heinelt, H. & Kübler, D., Metropolitan Governance: Capacity, Democracy and the Dynamics of Place, L (...)
  • 13 Bell, S. & Hindmoor, A., Rethinking Governance: The Centrality of State in Modern Society, Cambridg (...)
  • 14 Kober-Smith, A., Leydier, G. & Sowels, N. (eds), ‘Nouvelle gestion publique et réformes des service (...)

8 The first aim of this collection of essays is to study of the origins of governance as well as the way in which it has evolved since the 1997 Labour victory. How did the notion of governance come to replace that of government, without necessarily superseding it ? The evolution of public policy-making and their implementation under the Conservative governments (1979-1997) has been analysed as symptomatic of a crisis of the state, whose scope for action was significantly limited (“roll back”).12 The involvement of the civil society and the private sector in the decision-making process has continued under the New Labour governments (1997-2010), even though the state retains a central role (“roll out”).13 The contributions compare and contrast the various governments’ periods of action and/or inaction when faced with the new challenges in the management of public policy.14

  • 15 Bevir, M, Democratic Governance, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2010; Bevir, M., A Theory o (...)
  • 16 Newman, J., Modernizing Governance: New Labour, Policy and Society, London, Sage, 2001; Newman, J. (...)

9 A second objective of this issue is to draw a distinction between different types of actors, either institutional or from the private or the third sectors, taking into account the impact of the national, regional and local scales on these actors. Recent publications - including the works of Hajer, Rhodes and Bevir15 - have shown the growing involvement of the third sector through network building in the framing and implementation of public policies. The empowerment of these actors could reinforce the thesis of a decline in state power to the advantage of greater participatory democracy. In contrast, other studies - such as those provided by Newman, Bell or Hindmoor16 - minimize the scope of such participation and emphasise institutional complexity.

10 Finally, this issue seeks to return to a more nuanced definition of governance. The dichotomous vision of governance as either a “success” or a “failure” can be considered more normative than analytical and some doubts have been raised regarding the actual efficiency of that organizational model, in view of – among other things – the limitations of citizen participation, as well as the implicit continuing supremacy of the market and the government. This makes it necessary to question the continued validity of governance as a theoretical tool and to suggest that using other notions, such as metagovernance or mutual interdependence, would be more accurate.

11 In tackling all these issues, the contributions gathered here do not aim to provide an exhaustive account of all aspects of UK public policy since 1997, but to reassess the tenets of governance theory in the light of the British experience. The volume therefore combines contributions providing a much needed update of the theoretical framework as well as a range case studies of some of the main areas of public policy. The first two essays establish from the outset the theoretical and practical background for a contemporary take on the notion of governance. Mark Bevir’s “genealogy” of governance, largely based on the British experience, clarifies the concepts which have underpinned the two waves of public sector reforms (the market-oriented neoliberal wave and the network-based institutionalist wave) and discusses the impact of the growing role of performance accountability (as opposed to procedural accountability) on democracy. Drawing from the field of organizational studies, Ian Jordan then takes a practitioner’s perspective to show how corporate governance – based on the “board of directors” model – may be used to improve accountability in public sector organizations, with the caveat that most public sector organizations are not structurally designed for a one-model-fits-all approach, which calls for significant adaptation of private sector governance models for reforms to be successful.

12 The following four essays cover the main sectors of public policy to empirically assess the impact of new governance reforms on British public services. First, Louise Dalingwater looks at the way modernist governance has transformed the organization and delivery of public health services in England, focusing on the post-New Public Management reform wave which began in the late 1990s - intended to improve the horizontal and vertical coordination of governmental organization which had emerged out of NPM - in order to determine whether the post-NPM reforms are nothing more than NPM repackaged. She then assesses the limitations inherent in the reconfiguration of the NHS to comply with a business-like and consumer-oriented model. Lucie de Carvalho then focusses on UK nuclear power policies in order to question the widespread theories of a “hollowing out” of the state as a result of the recent changes in the governance structure of the British electricity sector in the 1990s. She shows that a highly adaptable UK state remains a dominant player in UK energy policies and that the boundary between the state’s sphere of influence and the private sector has in fact shown a high degree of elasticity, tightening or expanding depending on circumstances. In the same vein, Thibaud Harrois highlights the difficulties met, since the end of the Cold War, by classical state-centred theories in explaining changes in international relations, and assesses the validity of the “security governance” theory of International Relations, borne out of the emergence of new actors and transnational networks. He demonstrates that although the state has had to adapt to a new security paradigm, the national interest still prevails and that, in the matter of foreign and defence policy, the British government remains the main actor. Lastly Karine Bihet explains how, since 1997, the education policies of the New Labour and Coalition governments have led to the emergence of a range of new actors - such as businesses, associations, parent groups, a process which would seem to be pointing to a withdrawal of the state and the privatisation of education. She argues however that the central government has not in fact, in this sector, relinquished any of its prerogatives in terms of control and regulation.

13 The last two essays return to a more theoretical assessment of the narratives of governance. First, Marc Lenormand draws from the recent trajectory of industrial relations in Britain, characterised by regular shifts between a social-democratic, pluralist-polity conception of government and a right-wing, unitary-state conception of government, in contrast to the linear, all-encompassing, substantial understanding of the development of “governance”, to highlight the epistemological shift brought about by the introduction of the theories and analyses of governance, in particular the idea of a “decentred approach”. In the final essay, Antonino Palumbo confronts two main interpretations of recent changes in governance : one which sees recent political and institutional change as an attempt to consolidate the enterprise culture of the 1980s, through the emergence of a Regulatory state, and one which presents it as the outcome of decentralised attempts to solve the policy mess caused by neoliberal reforms of big government, leading to a Networked Polity. By mobilising the three criteria of desirability, electability and feasibility, he points to the inconsistencies of the Regulatory state interpretative approach to demonstrate the superiority of the Networked Polity as a normative framework.

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Notes

1 Rosenau J.N. & Czempiel, E. O. (eds), Governance without Government: Order and Change in World Politics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992; Kooiman, J., ‘Social-Political governance: introduction’, in Kooiman, J. (ed). Modern Governance. New Government – Society Interactions (pp. 1-8), London, Sage, 1993 ; March, J. P. & Olsen, P., Democratic Governance, New York, NY, The Free Press, 1995 ; Peters, B.G., The Future of Governing : Four Emerging Models, Lawrence, KS, University of Kansas Press, 1996 ; Rhodes, R.A.W., ‘The New Governance : Governing without Government’, Political Studies, 1996, 44(4) : 652–667.

2 Avril, E. & Zumello, C. (eds), New Technology, Organization Change and Governance, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

3 Bevir, M. & Rhodes, R.A.W., Interpreting British Governance, London, Routledge, 2003: 9.

4 Osborne, D. & Gaebler, T., Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming Public Sector, Harmondsworth, Penguin Group, 1993: 20.

5 For a critical evaluation of the concepts of “steering” and “rowing” see Peters, B. G., ‘Steering, Rowing, Drifting, or Sinking? Changing Patterns of Governance’, Urban Research & Practice, 2011, 4 (1) : 5-12.

6 Stoker, G., ‘Governance as Theory: Five Propositions’, International Social Science Journal, 1998, 50: 18.

7 Jessop, B., ‘Bring the State Back In (Yet Again): Reviews, Revisions, Rejections, and Redirections’, International Review of Sociology, 2001, 1: 149-173.

8 Peters, B. G., Pierre, J., Governance, Politics and the State, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000; Bernard, B. & Wilkin, L., ‘Les Réformes de l’administration vues d’en bas’, Pyramides, 18, 2009.

9 Peter, B. G., op. cit., 2011, 6.

10 Salamon, L. M., ‘Introduction’, in Salamon, (ed), Tools of Government: a Guide to the New Governance, New York, Oxford University Press, 2001.

11 Bevir, M. & Rhodes, R.A.W., op.cit., 45.

12 Heinelt, H. & Kübler, D., Metropolitan Governance: Capacity, Democracy and the Dynamics of Place, London, Routledge, 2005.

13 Bell, S. & Hindmoor, A., Rethinking Governance: The Centrality of State in Modern Society, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

14 Kober-Smith, A., Leydier, G. & Sowels, N. (eds), ‘Nouvelle gestion publique et réformes des services publiques sous le New Labour’, Observatoire de la Société Britannique, 8, 2010.

15 Bevir, M, Democratic Governance, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2010; Bevir, M., A Theory of Governance, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2013; Hajer, M. A., Deliberative Policy Analysis: Understanding Governance in the Network Society, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003; Hajer, M. A., Authoritative Governance. Policy Making in the Age of Mediatization, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009 ; Rhodes, R.A.W, Understanding Governance : Policy Networks, Governance Reflexibility and Accountability, Maidenhead, GB, Philadelphie, US, Open University Press, 1997 ; Rhodes, R.A.W, ‘Understanding Governance Ten Years On’, Organizational Studies, 2007, 28 : 1243-1264.

16 Newman, J., Modernizing Governance: New Labour, Policy and Society, London, Sage, 2001; Newman, J. & Clarke, J., Publics, Politics and Power: Re-making the Public in Public Services, London, Sage, 2009; Bell, S. & Hindmoor, A., op. cit., 2009.

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Emmanuelle Avril, Lucie de Carvalho, Jihane Ghelfi et Thibaud Harrois, « Introduction », Observatoire de la société britannique, 16 | 2014, 9-18.

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Emmanuelle Avril, Lucie de Carvalho, Jihane Ghelfi et Thibaud Harrois, « Introduction », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 16 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2015, consulté le 19 août 2017. URL : http://osb.revues.org/1687 ; DOI : 10.4000/osb.1687

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Auteurs

Emmanuelle Avril

Professeur à l'Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3

Lucie de Carvalho

Doctorante à l'Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3

Jihane Ghelfi

Doctorante à l'Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3

Thibaud Harrois

Doctorant à l'Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3

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