Efficient Self-Coordination in Policy Networks -- A Simulation Study
Fritz W. Scharpf and Matthias Mohr
Normative theories of representative democracy generally presuppose hierarchical governance. Democratic accountability seems to require that policy choices should originate from a unitary government (or a presidency) that is legitimated through competitive general elections, that they should be ratified by majority decisions in parliament, and that they should then be implemented by a disciplined bureaucracy relying on the superior force of the state and using resources collected through general taxation. By holding the governing hierarchy accountable to the general electorate, and by minimizing the direct influence of special interests on any phase of the policy process, the democratic process is supposed to produce policy outcomes that will maximize the general welfare of the polity.
In the real world of Western democracies, of course, actual policy choices are often worked out through negotiations among the representatives of partial interests in a great variety of arenas -- among ministerial departments, among coalition parties, among specialized legislative committees, between the federal government and the states, in transnational agreements, in neocorporatist concertation between the government and associations of capital and labor, or other representatives of sectoral self-organization, and in issue-specific policy networks involving interest organizations together with specialized subunits within the executive and legislative branches of government. Typically, parties to these negotiations not only represent particular interests but also are likely to control specific action resources -- jurisdictional competencies or the loyalty of certain segments of the population -- whose use may be essential for the achievement of policy goals.
All of these forms of negotiated policymaking present challenges to conventional democratic theory that are not yet well understood. During the 1970s and 1980s, the attention
Originally published as Discussion Paper 94/1, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, 1994.