Academic journal article German Policy Studies

From Government towards Governance? Exploring the Role of Soft Policy Instruments

Academic journal article German Policy Studies

From Government towards Governance? Exploring the Role of Soft Policy Instruments

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Germany has often been portrayed as a high regulatory state (e.g. Heritier, Knill and Mingers 1996) which has traditionally relied heavily on 'command-and-control' regulations that stipulate the best available technology (BAT--Stand der Technik) (e.g. Weale 1992b; Wurzel 2002). Knill (2001: 135-163) has argued that the German environmental policy system is characterised by a "static core" that gives preference to interventionist approaches and regulatory rules which "are highly specified and leave comparatively little flexibility and discretion for the administration". At first sight Germany therefore seems an unlikely country for the wide use of voluntary agreements and EMAS which are widely considered as relatively flexible "soft" policy instruments.

However, cooperation between governmental and societal actors has been an early goal of German modern-day environmental policy. The relatively ambitious 1971 Environmental Programme stipulated already the cooperation principle (Kooperationsprinzip) together with the polluter pays principle (Verursacherprinzip) and the precautionary principle (Vorsorgeprinzip) (e.g. Hartkopf and Bohne 1983; Muller 1986). According to Hartkopf and Bohne (1983: 114) the cooperation principle is particularly pertinent for the environmental policy sector "[b]ecause in hardly any other policy sector are state and societal actors as much dependent on each other as in environmental policy". The cooperation principle was meant to encourage cooperation between governmental and societal actors for the following two main reasons. First, to make easier the implementation of consensually adopted environmental policy measures; second, to allow governmental actors to utilise more easily societal knowledge including the know-how of corporate actors on issues relevant for environmental policy measures (Kloepfer 2004: 198-199). However, in practice corporate actors were often highly reluctant to cooperate voluntarily with governmental actors on the adoption of ambitious environmental policy measures.

Most German voluntary agreements were therefore adopted in "the shadow of the law" (Scharpf 1994; see also Lees 2005: 222; Wurzel et al. 2003) or in "the shadow of hierarchy" (e.g. Heritier and Lehmkuhl 2008; Toller 2008a). More often than not they constituted an attempt by corporate actors to pre-empt government legislation by offering a voluntary agreement instead. Environmental voluntary agreements therefore resembled a form of "regulated self-regulation" (Paterson 1989: 284) that fitted well the wider social market economy (soziale Marktwirtschaft) doctrine which long has been a central action guiding principle for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). It also suited Germany's moderately active policy style which usually relies heavily on consensus and consultation (Dyson 1982, 1992; Weale 1992). Importantly the traditional German policy style exhibited some corporatist features because most post Second World War German governments have consulted closely both employer groups and unions. However, it is also strongly informed by ordo-liberal ideas according to which the state determines merely the framework conditions (Ordnungspolitik) within which market forces reign. Emphasizing both ordo-liberal and state interventionist ideas, Germany's managed capitalist system developed into a social market economy (Dyson 1982, 1992; Dyson and Goetz 2003; Dyson and Padgett 2005). By contrast, attempts to develop the social market economy doctrine further into a "social and ecological market economy" (soziale und okologische Marktwirtschaft) were less successful.

The social market economy doctrine has been open for both the adoption of traditional command-and-control regulation (which reflected state intervention) and voluntary agreements (which emphasize self-regulation although they are usually adopted in the "shadow of the law"). Importantly, out of those political parties which have formed (coalition) governments in Germany, it has been the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands--SPD) and the Green Party (Bundnis 90/Die Grunen Alliance 90/The Greens) which have emphasized more strongly the need for interventionist environmental policy measures while the Christian Democratic Party (Christlich Demokratische Union--CDU), Christian Social Union (Christlich Soziale Union--CSU) and in particular the Liberal Party (Freiheitliche Partei Deutschlands--FDP) have overall stressed more often the importance of voluntary agreements (for more details see the contribution by Toller in this issue). …

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