Democratic Governance

Democratic Governance

Democratic Governance

Democratic Governance


Democratic Governance examines the changing nature of the modern state and reveals the dangers these changes pose to democracy. Mark Bevir shows how new ideas about governance have gradually displaced old-style notions of government in Britain and around the world. Policymakers cling to outdated concepts of representative government while at the same time placing ever more faith in expertise, markets, and networks. Democracy exhibits blurred lines of accountability and declining legitimacy.

Bevir explores how new theories of governance undermined traditional government in the twentieth century. Politicians responded by erecting great bureaucracies, increasingly relying on policy expertise and abstract notions of citizenship and, more recently, on networks of quasi-governmental and private organizations to deliver services using market-oriented techniques. Today, the state is an unwieldy edifice of nineteenth-century government buttressed by a sprawling substructure devoted to the very different idea of governance--and democracy has suffered.

In Democratic Governance, Bevir takes a comprehensive look at governance and the history and thinking behind it. He provides in-depth case studies of constitutional reform, judicial reform, joined-up government, and police reform. He argues that the best hope for democratic renewal lies in more interpretive styles of expertise, dialogic forms of policymaking, and more diverse avenues for public participation.


DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE offers a genealogy of some problems confronting democracy. The genealogy focuses on modernist social science. Modernism has transformed our political practices. New theories of governance have contributed to the rise of new worlds of governance. The new governance challenges democracy. Policy makers have ignored the challenge, or responded to it in terms set by the theories that caused it. Democratic action has lost out to scientific expertise.

While the new theories of governance have roots in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the new worlds of governance did not appear much before the 1980s. I do not mention the 1980s to support the glib identification of governance with a reified, uniform, and unchanging set of neoliberal policies: the new worlds of governance have always been diverse and contested, and even when governments did adopt neoliberal policies, the policies rarely worked as intended so they have been replaced or supplemented with alternative policies. Instead, I mention the 1980s to suggest the new worlds of governance have coincided with my adult lifetime. When I have written on governance, I have narrated my times.

My narratives are my political action. When we describe the new worlds of governance and explain how they arose, we necessarily approve or critique the ideas embedded in those worlds. Our stories can challenge current ways of acting and suggest alternative possibilities. New stories do not create new practices, but they can prepare the way for them. I tell stories because I have little talent or taste for other forms of political action.

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