Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 59
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: September 2009



Governance or the rise of a new vocabulary

One of the most striking developments in the analysis of politics and policy-making is the shift in vocabulary that has occurred over the last ten years. Terms such as ‘governance’, ‘institutional capacity’, ‘networks’, ‘complexity’, ‘trust’, ‘deliberation’ and ‘interdependence’ dominate the debate, while terms such as ‘the state’, ‘government’, ‘power’ and ‘authority’, ‘loyalty’, ‘sovereignty’, ‘participation’ and ‘interest groups’ have lost their grip on the analytical imagination. The new vocabulary prevails in spheres ranging from international relations (Finkelstein 1995; Rosenau 1995; World Bank 1997) to policy analysis and public administration (Rhodes 1996; 2000), from comparative politics to urban planning (Forester 1999; Healey 1997; Innes and Booher 1999b), from European studies (Marks et al. 1996) to political theory (Dryzek 2000; March and Olsen 1995). The shift from ‘government’ to ‘governance’ is widely proclaimed and endorsed in the political-science and policy-xscience communities (for an analytical overview, see especially Pierre 2000). Social science is no less immune to fads than popular culture. New concepts often have a remarkably short shelf-life. New vocabularies may signify no more than a change of rhetoric. In this case, such an explanation is too simple. The new vocabulary seems to capture changes in both the nature and topography of politics. A new range of political practices has emerged between institutional layers of the state and between state institutions and societal organizations. The new language is rooted in an appreciation of the importance of these new political practices.