Governance: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Oct 25, 2012 - Political Science - 132 pages
The word 'governance' is ubiquitous. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund make loans conditional on 'good governance'. Climate change and avian flu appear as issues of 'global governance'. The European Union issues a White Paper on 'Governance'. The U.S. Forest Service calls for 'collaborative governance'. What accounts for the pervasive use of the term 'governance' and to what does it refer? It has a bewildering set of answers. The word 'governance' is used in a variety of contexts, but at a general level, it refers to all forms of social coordination and patterns of rule. In this Very Short Introduction, Mark Bevir considers not only the main theories of governance, but also their impact in a variety of areas including corporate, public, and global affairs. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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“Governance” is one of those phrases that have been featured in the news a lot lately. I most frequently come across it in the context of “corporate governance,” but other usages (public governance, global governance, etc.) have also crept up into my peripheral vision. This word is for the most part pretty self-explanatory, but I wanted to get a bit more of the sense of its overall meaning. So this is one of the main motives behind my decision to read “Governance: A Very Short Introduction.” The book indeed covers this subject relatively thoroughly, but it also leaves something to be desired.
One of this short book’s main theses is that the reason we hear more about governance these days is that the word “government,” with all its implications, has become decidedly less popular. As the popularity of big centralized governing and planning institutions wanes, the process of governing is becoming more and more diffused. Even within any single institution, the decision-making has become more devolved and collegial, as opposed to centralized and hierarchical. This book gives some really interesting examples from the real world and from the recent developments that illustrate various points that the author is trying to make.
Unfortunately, after reading this book I am nowhere closer to understanding what governance really is, how can it be measured, and particularly how can we determine if any given institution is engaging in “good governance” practices. The book is much more discursive and descriptive, and in many ways it reads like a contemporary history book. Furthermore, I also think that many of its points could have been stated much more succinctly.
This is a decent enough book on its subject matter, but I would not recommend it to anyone who is interested in getting a very concrete and practical understanding of governance. I am not sure if such a book exists, but if does I would certainly like to take a look at it.


1 What is governance?
2 Organizational governance
3 Corporate governance
4 Public governance
5 Global governance
6 Good governance
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About the author (2012)

Mark Bevir is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of New Labour: A Critique (Routledge, 2005), Key Concepts in Governance (Sage, 2009), Democratic Governance (PUP, 2010), and The State as Cultural Practice (OUP, 2010). He is also theeditor or co-editor of 10 books, including a two volume Encyclopaedia of Governance (Sage, 2007). He founded the undergraduate course on 'Theories of Governance' at Berkeley and he teaches a graduate course on 'Strategies of Contemporary Governance'.

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