Changes in Governance: A Cross-Disciplinary Review of Current Scholarship

67 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2008 Last revised: 6 May 2008

See all articles by Scott Burris

Scott Burris

Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Michael Kempa


Clifford Shearing

University of Cape Town; University of Montreal, School of Criminology; University of New South Wales; University of Toronto


There is widespread agreement that governance is important and in flux. But exactly what is governance? How is it changing, what is happening to the state, and how are actors at various levels of social organization promoting or adapting to changes in governance? The aim of this paper is to explore what researchers and theorists in a wide range of fields have made of the ferment in governance, and to identify important lessons for people interested in how to improve it locally, nationally and internationally.

Part II, canvasses definitions of governance. Part III looks at how scholars in a variety of fields have described the changes in contemporary governance. The main theme in the literature is the fragmentation of state sovereignty and the consequent multiplication in the number of agencies and forms of power that are active in the management of social systems. Throughout the literature there is discussion of the governing power of transnational corporations. NGOs and foundations, though not generally as wealthy or effective as corporations, are also vital governors at all levels. Dark networks like Al Qaida and criminal cartels are also seen as agencies of governance. Part IV examines efforts to remake governance over the past twenty years, identifying two genres of reform: reinvention of government and reinvention of governance. Reinventing government involves efforts to recalibrate state structures to improve their capacity to exercise centralized control of diffuse systems, often somewhat paradoxically by ceding much of the implementation of policy to non-state actors through devices like self-regulation and governance partnerships. Reinventing governance uses some of the same methods of power, but differs from reinventing government in that it takes innovation beyond the state-centered or hybrid forms into efforts to mobilize governors who may act with little or no connection with the state. The paper concludes with some critical observations about contemporary scholarship on governance innovation.

Keywords: Governance, Regulation

Suggested Citation

Burris, Scott C. and Kempa, Michael and Shearing, Clifford D, Changes in Governance: A Cross-Disciplinary Review of Current Scholarship. Akron Law Review, Vol. 41, p. 1, 2008, Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-67, Available at SSRN:

Scott C. Burris (Contact Author)

Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

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Michael Kempa

Independent ( email )

Clifford D Shearing

University of Cape Town ( email )

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University of Montreal, School of Criminology ( email )

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University of New South Wales ( email )


University of Toronto ( email )

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