EU Governance: Where do we go from here?
In this essay Johan P. Olsen argues for improved theoretical understanding in the field of EU governance in order to overcome four impediments in the literature: tidying up the conceptual morass, amending the inconclusive evidence, ousting the ghost of “the state” as a major frame of reference, and getting beyond the tyranny of dichotomies.
Johan P. Olsen
How can students of the European Union get from describing recent advances, to speculating about what are possible new directions and research agendas? How promising are terms such as “governance” and “the new governance” for improving the understanding how the Union is overned and whether, and to what degree, there is a transformation in its system of governance? This essay holds that improved theoretical understanding requires the ability to overcome four impediments in the literature: tidying up the conceptual morass, amending the inconclusive evidence, ousting the ghost of “the state” as a major frame of reference, and getting beyond the tyranny of dichotomies. It is acknowledged that the “governance turn” in EU-studies is an important one, yet it is far from obvious that dichotomies such as “government” vs. “governance” and “old” vs. “new” modes of governance – treated as exclusive alternatives - are the most useful analytical tools for improving the understanding of EU developments.
The main argument is that the analysis of the EU system of governance can benefit from being better related to some enduring and recurrent themes in the theoretical study of democratic governance and thereby to the long history of ideas about how societies can and should best be governed. This implies a reappraisal of how systems of governance may be conceptualized and what are the key characteristics that differentiate among modes of governance. It also implies a reappraisal of the achievements and significance of different modes of governance.
A later version of this paper was published in B. Kohler-Koch and F. Losada European Muliti-Level Governance - Constrasting Images in National Research , 2008, pp. 191-209.